Sigh. Thomas Vanek scores the OTGWG. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
Without Ryan Miller, the Buffalo Sabres are not really daunting foes. The well-haired goalie had been convalescing with a hip injury for the last handful of games and returned to the Washington Capitals’ distinct displeasure. But with a stiff upper lip, the Caps entered the fray in nigh-Canada. Sort of.
Karl Alzner opened the game with a laser through traffic that found a wide swathe of net behind Ryan Miller. The second period was an unbridled embarrassment. The Sabres scored twice (a well-screened bomb by Montador and a fluke by Vanek). For their part the Capitals simply refused to play offense of any kind, offering only four shots across the middle frame. To qualify that, Jason Chimera spent four minutes in the box for a cross check that might have been overblown a bit, and Tomas Fleischmann also caught a double minor for a freak high sticking that carried no aggression.
Nicklas Backstrom allowed 7 minutes to escape the third period before equalizing with a high swat. Ten minutes later, a suspicious high sticking call earned Backy a double minor (the Caps’ third of the game). The Capitals survived another backbreaking penalty kill all the way into overtime. Things look liked they were headed towards the shootout until Thomas Vanek suckered Carlson and Holtby in sequence to score a sharp-looking OTGWG. Bummer, I know, but at least the Caps take a point home. Sabres beat Caps 3-2 (OT).
- Kind of a bad game in general, eh?
- The Caps played the second period like it was the first. They producted only four shots to Buffalo’s 11, zero scoring chances to Buffalo’s 8. Why must there be one guaranteed bad period every game?
- While the Caps were struggling in the second period and the first half of the third, the grinders got short shrift. Matt Bradley and Dave Steckel in particular had far fewer shifts than usual.
- With Poti out (a worry of its own), Bruce Boudreau did as much as he could to limit any Tyler Sloan-related damage. Sloan trailed all defenders in ice time with only 13:20.
- 13:20 sounds like precious little until you consider than ersatz 2C Tomas Fleichmann played only 11 minutes and change. Which might be more than he deserved. Flash produced no chances at even strength. So did Eric Fehr, for that matter. Pitiful.
- The ice at HSBC Arena was wackadoodle. Mike Green and Buffalo’s Tyler Myers each lost skate edges, leading to Chevy Chase-style pratfalls.
- Nicklas Backstrom took eleven faceoffs. He lost ONE.
- Braden Holtby was the Capitals best player, a spastic puck wall until the final second overtime and that unfortunate poke check on Vanek.
- Alex Ovechkin had a prime breakaway chance against Ryan Miller in the first, but was bested. For the rest of the game, Ovi habitually bobbled the puck and whiffed on shots. To be fair, Ovi had only one offensive start in the entire game.
- All penalties are four minutes. It’s a new rule. Did you not get the memo?
Maybe the Caps play down to their competition to keep it interesting for us fans. That’s considerate of them, but they don’t need to go out of their way on our account. When the Caps found motivation in that final extending penalty kill, you’d think they had re-awoken their win-thirst. Naw. This was a snoozer.
At least we learned something. When Bruce Boudreau saw the same offensive inertia that you and I did, he tweaked lines. BB tried putting Tomas Fleischmann on the 4th, Johansson on the top, and Backstrom with Chimera and Semin. Only the last of those fiddles did anything of merit, but we learned that the the Caps’ chemistry may be more delicate than we previously thought.
A disappointing game and an undeserved point for an overtime loss. Here’s hoping the team that suits up tomorrow afternoon will have a bit more oomph than the team that played tonight.
Enjoy your Saturday nights, everyone.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.