The Washington Capitals officially have a defensive crisis. Despite an offensive onslaught, the Capitals allowed (at least) one too many goals in tonight’s match-up with the Senators. With Tom Poti and Shaone Morrisonn out, Karl Alzner and Tyler Sloan did their best to fill in. They failed. The defense seemed incapable of winning battles in the corners or clearing the puck, and the offense seemed too concerned with goal-scoring to be bothered with work in their own zone. These are not new problems for the Caps, but they have worsened in the last five or six games. Led by Alexei Kovalev and Jason Spezza, Ottawa seized on the Capitals’ weakness to win the night. Sens Beat Caps 6-5.
- Tomas Fleischmann scored a smart goal to give Washington their first of the night, but that’s not why this bullet is here. Tomas won a measly 18% of his faceoffs (0 in offense, 0 in neutral) and was on the ice for four Ottawa goals. The Flash-at-Center experiment might have finally turned on us.
- Bruce Boudreau lambasted Semyon Varlamov for his play tonight, “I don’t think he was ready to play.” Semyon let waaaaaaay too many easy pucks by him. I understand that Neuvirth’s injury mandated Varly’s inclusion on this trip, but why was Semyon the Returned played against one of the hottest teams in the league? He clearly has further to go before he’s back to his old self. I would have loved to have seen the kid go up against a pushover like the Blues. He might not be ready for the Olympics after all, which will be a kind of vindication for us and Lisa Hillary.
- Was there an equipment problem, or was the Ottawan ice lubricated with Vaseline? Mike Green slipped up twice in the first period, and there several more wipeouts to come. In a game where the defense was already struggling to control the puck, the Chevy Chase pratfalls got unfunny pretty quick.
- It may be counterproductive to the storyline, but the top line definitely underperformed tonight. Alexander Ovechkin (27:42 TOI) was neutralized by Anton Volchenkov, and Mike Knuble (22:20 TOI) and Nicky Backstrom (23:01 TOI) looked too tired to step up. In these attempted come-from-behind games, the top line has been overutilized, and it’s taking a toll on their efficacy.
- Let’s take a moment to exalt the splendor of Alexander Semin. Little Sasha loosed two top-tier wristers within a minute to put his team back in the game. There’s nothing more exciting than a single player hoisting the team on his back and carrying it to victory, but it’s just not practical. Even with Semin completing the hat trick (the 3rd in his NHL career), he could not win the game single-handedly. Tragic it is that the second and third hat tricks by this team came in losing games. It kind of dulls the whole statistical luster of getting 3 hats in a row.
The Capitals have followed up the 14 game winning streak with two consecutive losses. They are tired, hurt, distracted, sloppy, and increasingly grumpy. Bruce Boudreau is so grumpy he might start stealing children, living under bridges, and forcing passersby to answer riddles. It goes without saying that the Capitals require practice and a return to fundamentals, but it’s becoming clear that what they really need is a vacation.
The St. Louis Blues are all that stand between Washington and reprieve. Saturday night cannot come soon enough.