Bruins beat Caps 3-1: We’re Grumpy

matt-hendricks-gregory-campbell-fight

The one bright spot: MoJo scores his first NHL goal. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

The one bright spot: MoJo scores his first NHL goal. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

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.

  • http://make-lemons.com Michelle

    Looks like this years Caps need to re-read Sweet Pickles Goose-off Goose :(

  • http://crzyjewishotaku.deviantart.com Rachel Cohen

    We’re what, 6 games into the season? Honestly, it’s hard to make a real conclusion.

  • Peter Hassett

    @Michelle, I have no earthly idea what “Sweet Pickles Goose-off Goose” is. I’m afraid, but now I have to know. Enlighten me.

  • peachy

    I’m grumpy too!! @peter, thanks for the write-up, you do a great job…and I love the last statement! God help me, I am missing MG52! Also..come on Brads!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian


    YAY, MOJO! U JUST SCOAR GOALS!

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  • http://www.threewireguy.wordpress.com BigNed

    With this game being something of an exception (though Neuvy not saying he wasn’t feeling well early seems to have kind of hosed the team) two things seem apparent:

    1. The whole “I’m not partying, I’m all business and focused on a championship” thing has apparently worn out its welcome and we’re back to Late Night Ovie. Don’t suppose Tiesto had anything to do with Invisible Eight.

    2. It seems to me that the coaches and players may be putting a bit too much emphasis on a postseason that we haven’t reached yet. Last year they played loose, had fun and had a major disappointment against a Montreal team that decided to devote themselves to throwing their bodies at the puck. [/tangent I haven’t watched any games this year (I live in Wisconsin and don’t have cable) so I can’t tell if that’s become a formula for teams playing the Caps. If it has, then BB needs to start working on more of a “half-court” offense to create better shots instead of relying on the fast break. /endtangent]

    Everyone seems so tight, ready to fight and just generally wound up almost like every shift they have to prove that they aren’t a joke because they lost in the first round after winning the President’s trophy. I know it was disappointing and I think the hockey know-it-alls were perhaps a bit too joyful in getting the chance to criticize a team and a style of play that went against the norm.

    If I’m BB or GMGM, the next time the team gets a couple of days off in a row, I don’t have an extra volunteer practice – we know the guys can play and we know they are dedicated – I take them to Dave and Busters or laser tag or a monster truck rally or any other place where they can hit the reset button and remember how good it was when they hit the ice and just had fun. Winning cups is great, but being the Caps is better.

  • Peter Hassett

    @BigNed,

    I think that’s really insightful, especially point 2.

    My whole attitude is that you win championships not by focusing on the postseason, but on the game in front of you. Really, the moment in front of you: the microevent.

    And I also agree with you about the offense– they seem to get jazzed off of low-probability stretch passes instead of well composed offensive thrusts. They don’t cross the blue well, and once past it, they linger in the corners.

    Maybe it’ll mellow with time, but the Caps seem to be traumatized by the playoffs, and it’s hurting them in the present tense.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment

  • Mary K

    @BigNed — the boys (except for Ovi and Varly) just spent some time at an amusement park, where they rode the rides and played with water guns (and signed autographs).

    http://capitalsnewsnetworkofftheice.blogspot.com/2010/10/photos-2010-caps-season-ticket-holder.html

  • DanH

    I didn’t think Neuvy was at fault for either of those goals. 2 on 1 he’s gotta play the guy with puck. Looked to me like Sloan played it as well as he could have. I thought the Caps forward (not sure who) didn’t skate very hard to catch up with Krecji.

    Neuvy made the first save before the second goal but you gotta have someone covering the shooter and the d-man needs to keep Lucic from getting to the rebound.

  • http://www.threewireguy.wordpress.com BigNed

    @Mary – there is a difference between going to the park for a media/fan event and going for yourself. I love how accessible and friendly the Caps players are and that Ted Leonsis and crew try really hard to make that the case. However, if you’ve ever chaperoned a school trip or been a camp counselor, you know that having responsibility uses energy and creates stress. When other people have expectations of you, you can’t fully relax and let your guard down.

    Which brings up something I hadn’t thought of before: how much stress are the Caps under just because they a) appreciate the fans, b) want to do well for the fans, and c) are aware that the fans kind of think they walk on water? The Caps fans that I know of are not just hockey buffs supporting the local team, they are also DC sports fans desperate for a winner and thrilled to have a successful team to cheer for after years of let downs. The same access to players that has helped generate the rabid level of fan loyalty the Caps enjoy may be contributing to their tension on ice.

  • Peter

    Dan, I think it was Backstrom who was trying to catch up. I’m not sure Sloan’s d was perfect on that play though.

    Neuvi wasn’t at fault, but he shouldn’t have been on the ice with the flu anyway. Word on the street is he was vomiting (or wishes he was) eighth after coming off.

  • Sean

    BigNed’s 2nd point is stunningly correct for not having watched a game. Teams are using Montreal’s aggressive strategy a lot more against the Caps this season, and, in large, it’s frustrating the Caps offense. Naturally, having Green out and attempting to cover for the lack of defense presented by Sloan and Erskine is also contributing.

    In general, the Caps need to work on developing more set offense, cycling the puck, and gaining the zone with possession. So far the offense has been far too reliant on individual efforts.

  • Peter

    That’s a good point, Sean. I haven’t seen the Caps cycle successfully much. The other teams’ D doesn’t seem to be giving them the space.

  • http://make-lemons.com Michelle

    @Peter… Haha Sweet Pickles were kids books http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Pickles

    Goose Goofs Off saying she’ll do everything… later… basically a cautionary lesson about procrastination

    In my Caps scenario… it appears that they’ll Stay Angry…. tomorrow :)

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