Matt Hendricks makes sure Gregory Campbell remembers to never mess with #8 again. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
In the first of their two games with the Boston Bruins, the Capitals continued to express the manifold problems plaguing the team in this still-new season. With an inert offense, a struggling defense, and an impotent power play, it’s no wonder that the Bruins left Verizon Center with a 3-1 win. At least the Caps can trumpet their flawless penalty kill unit.
David Krecji, Milian Lucic, and Matt Hunwick scored Boston’s goals tonight. Washington answered with only one, Ikea-bred rookie Marcus Johansson’s first as an NHL player. Of the Capitals 36 shots on net, it seemed most of which were targeted squarely at the bulk of Boston goalie Tim Thomas. We’ve been told that the goals will come, and we’re still waiting. Bruins beat Caps 3-1.
Before this descends into full-on grumpytime… let’s do the bullets.
- Caps de facto #1 goalie Michal Neuvirth let two pucks of seven past him before abdicating the net at 12:42. Lil Mikey has the flu! Would’ve been nice if he bowed out earlier, as those two goals were also Boston’s winning margin.
- Neuvi’s absence left goalie duties to Semyon Varlamov, sporting a 1 on his back for the first time in the regular season. Varly didn’t face the same frequency of pucks as his predecessor; he stopped all but one of fourteen. Notably, at no time did Semyon re-injure his #brittlegroin, which might be made of the same material as my mom’s ’98 Hyundai Sonata.
- Matt Hendricks and Gregory Campbell debuted the sequel to their preseason ruckus. Hendricks sure is holding a grudge about that whole boarding-the-league’s-best-player thing. Campbell, by the way, earned 11 penalty minutes, all of which his father watched from his hermetically sealed panopticon.
- Tyler Sloan had a rough night. He struggled mightily in the corners with the Bruins offense, usually while the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble line stood nearby looking frustrated. He was in position but found wanting on Krecji’s 2-on-1 goal. At one point, Sloan seemed to play better after breaking his stick. I’m sure Tyler is a great guy, but the Caps need better defensive depth.
- John Erskine had six hits in the first period, each seeming to be the culmination of some seething rage that bubbles inside him when he watches other players use strange skills like puck handling and maneuverability to play hockey. His fight with Milan Lucic was pretty hardy though. But there was also that delay of game penalty that put the Caps on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. Disappointing.
- Yeah, Lucic got the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. No, we don’t do funny pictures if the recipient is on the other team. Bah humbug.
- Okay, let’s try a positive bullet here: Marcus Johansson scored his first NHL goal at the tender age of 19 [CORRECTION: Marcus turned 20 two weeks ago.]! When I was 19, my only achievement was driving my mom’s ’98 Hyundai Sonata 300 miles on a single tank of gas. Then again, even I might have been able to do better than 2 for 7 on the faceoff. No, definitely not. Darn, this was supposed to be a positive bullet.
- DJ King spent 4:05 on the ice tonight. If he had suckered that case study in phrenology, Zdeno Chara, into a fight, it might’ve been worth it. But he didn’t. So shouldn’t Boyd Gordon and his eternal 5 o’clock shadow– even if slightly injured– have been a better fit in his sweater?
- Not much to say about Alex Ovechkin tonight, which itself says a lot.
- After getting his compulsory stick penalty, Alex Semin turned up the heat– putting 10 pucks on goal. Usually when Sasha Minor is this determined, he scores. So what’s going wrong?
Even though they’ve lost only two games, the Capitals are struggling. The forwards on every line have failed to “click”. The power play looks at times statuesque. I don’t doubt that the boys have the same thirst for goalie blood they showed so well last year, but it’s not manifesting on the scoreboard. We can rationalize and console ourselves by counting shots on goal or congratulating the penalty killers, but those are just distractions.
The Caps chemistry has changed. Maybe it’s injuries (we hope so), or maybe they’re still getting the summer kinks out. Maybe it’s the roster. Regardless, it’s hard to look at these early season games and not reach a conclusion: the ’10-’11 Capitals have lost last year’s killer instinct .
Check back on Thursday night when I will be thoroughly, completely, and happily proven wrong.