Thursday, October 30, 2014

A NO-point night -- Game 9: Red Wings 4 - Capitals 2

The Washington Capitals were dealt a 4-2 loss by the Detroit Red Wings last night in a game of streaks, but we’ll get to that in a bit.  The teams battled to a scoreless first period, but Detroit broke the deadlock midway through the second period when Gustav Nyquist took advantage of a turnover in the defensive zone by the Caps to record his fifth goal of the season.  The Caps got it back less than five minutes later by taking advantage of a power play and the “long change” of the second period.  As the Red Wings were swapping out players, goalie Braden Holtby sent a long pass to Joel Ward at the Detroit blue line.  Ward hit a streaking Evgeny Kuznetsov who caught defenseman Danny DeKeyser napping to dart past him. Kuznetsov broke in alone on goalie Jimmy Howard and sanpped a shot past Howard’s blocker for his first goal of the season.

In the final minute of the second period Troy Brouwer broke the tie.  It was a case of showing why speed through the neutral zone and gaining the offensive zone with control of the puck matters.  And, it took the youngster to show them how.  Late in a Caps’ power play Andre Burakovsky took a pass from Braden Holtby just inside his own blue line at the right wing wall.  As he turned up ice he cut to the middle, then carried the puck over the Red Wing blue line to the top of the left wing faceoff circle.  He took a couple of extra strides to the goal line and sent the puck around the boards to the right side as the power play was about to expire.  The puck came around to Mike Green at the right point, who backed off to the blue line, then sent the puck back down to Burakovsky, who came out from around the Detroit cage.  Burakovsky found John Carlson at the high edge of the right wing faceoff circle.  Carlson stepped up as if to shoot, but he found Troy Brouwer sneaking in off the weak side, having just stepped onto the ice on a line change.  Brouwer had a clear line of sight on the Detroit net and beat Howard before the goalie could step across to cut off the shot. 

That would do it for the Caps’ scoring, though.  Justin Abdelkader tied the game in the fifth minute of the third period, then scored what would be the game winner six minutes later.  Pavel Datsyuk added a power play goal in the final minute to give the Red Wings their final winning margin, 4-2.

Other stuff…

-- Like we said, “streaks.”  It was the second consecutive game that the Caps lost in regulation time after a 4-1-2 start to the season.  It was the fifth straight game in which Alex Ovechkin did not register a point, the longest streak of his career.  It was the fifth straight game in which the Caps allowed a power play goal.  It was the second straight game that the Caps allowed three goals in a period in a game – three in the third period of this one following a three-goal second period for Vancouver last Sunday.  It was their second straight loss by a 4-2 margin.

-- The Caps went all Jose Canseco and shot themselves – repeatedly – when they thought they had the puck.  First it was Marcus Johansson, who pulled the hockey equivalent of the received in football who takes his eyes off the ball to turn upfield before he catches it, only to drop the pass.  In this instance it was Johansson turning up ice as a loose puck was coming to him.  Instead of focusing on securing the bouncing puck, his momentum was already in the other direction, and the puck hit him in his skate boot.  Justin Abdelkader gladly accepted the gift on behalf of his teammates and threaded a pass to Gustav Nyquist  all alone in front of Braden Holtby.  He was so alone that he got two whacks at the puck, the first to chip it off and over Holtby’s right pad, and another to swat it out of the air and in for the score.

-- Then there was Brooks Orpik playing, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.”  It started with Orpik blocking a drive by Henrik Zetterberg.  Seconds later, after Braden Holtby stopped a Kyle Quincy drive, Orpik collected the loose puck to Holtby’s left. Whereupon he “givethed.”  As he was about to take the puck around to the back of the net, he lost it off his stick with Pavel Datsyuk standing five feet away.  Datsyuk gladly accepted the gift on behalf of his teammates and tried to stuff the puck past Holtby’s pad.  Holtby made that save, the puck squirting out to the slot.  Andre Burakovsky swooped in to grab the puck, but then he left it behind for Abdelkader who wasted no time in firing the puck past Holtby.

-- Then there was the neutral zone turnover.  From his own blue line John Carlson tried to sent a long cross ice pass to Alex Ovechkin at the Detroit blue line.  Henrik Zetterberg knocked the pass out of the air and fed Datsyuk heading into the Caps’ end.  Four Caps converged on Datsyuk.  That’s right four… Nicklas Backstrom, Joel Ward, Brooks Orpik, and John Carlson.  Datsyuk being Datsyuk, he just knew there was an open Wing on the wing.  It was Abdelkader again, who trailed in Datsyuk’s wake, took the feed, and had a free shot on Holtby that he converted for the game-winning goal.

-- Burakovsky just keeps on chugging along.  His assist makes it points in seven of the nine games in which he has played and 2-6-8 overall.

-- At least Ovechkin was shooting the puck.  Seven shots on goal (13 attempts) was one off his season high – eight in the 6-5 Gimmick loss to San Jose in Game 3.

-- At least the Caps are back under 30 shots allowed.  Detroit managed only 22 shots on goal.  The Caps out-Corsi’ed the Red Wings, 58-42.  Is there a trophy named after this Corsi guy, because the Caps might have to settle for that one.

-- Tom Wilson saw his first action of the season, and in one respect he was in mid-season form.  He recorded four hits in 8:14 of ice time.

-- Orpik was on ice for each of the last three goals, as was John Carlson.  Of the 21 goals surrendered by the Caps this season, Orpik has been on ice for 12 of them, Carlson for 11.  Being on the wrong side of 50 percent of the goals scored against isn’t a great place to be.

-- Nicklas Backstrom… no points, a penalty, minus-2 (his first minus-2 of the season).  Hey, it happens.

-- Troy Brouwer’s goal broke a personal five-game streak without one.

No one is going to want to watch film of this one.  Defensive breakdowns, iffy goaltending (Holtby might want the last two goals back), general discombobulation overall.  It might have been the worst performance by the Caps this season so far.  Maybe it’s the infrequent hockey; the team has played only four games over the past 11 days (three three-or-more-day breaks) and lost three of them.  Whatever it is, they had better shake it off soon.  On October 18th they were 3-0-2, second in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  Today they are 4-3-2, in sixth place in the division and tenth in the conference.  You can’t win a Stanley Cup in October or November, but you can lose one.