Braden Holtby’s body language says it all. (Photo credit: Bill Kostroun)
It was like the end of the Wild Bunch if the Wild Bunch look bored while getting massacred by the Mexican army.
Friends, I love you too much to recap this game fully. I usually detail the goals here, but I like you too much to subject you to that punishment. Suffice it to say the New Jersey Devils scored a lot and the Washington Capitals did not score at all. The goals were ugly and avoidable. This was a solid hour of embarrassment– if only the Washington Capitals were capable of embarrassment.
This was the worst game of the Bruce Boudreau era. Devils beat Caps 5-0.
- The Caps mounted 4 shots in the first period, the first not until around 8 minutes in. Those shots came from the unusual suspects: Carlson, Fehr, Steckel, and Bradley.
- Braden Holtby is definitely on the hook for drifting out before Jason Arnott‘s wraparound goal. On the other hand, the other goals were mitigated by atrocious defensive plays and Braden did show remarkable resolve after the fifth goal. Let’s not pile on the rookie goalie. But a .666 save percentage against a team called the Devils? Wicked.
- Is the party line that Alex Ovechkin is frustrated? To me he seems uninterested. The GR8 had 5 shots and 5 hits in 22 minutes of sloppy, scatter-shot hockey.
- Tyler Sloan and John Erskine made life tough on Holtby, enabling to the second goal and the the penalty shot that became the third. Tyler Sloan did not return after the first period (total TOI 3:25), meaning he is either injured or has been fired. Unfortunately, it’s probably the former.
- Did the NJD blueliners show up for the first time in nine games? Awful timing. Maybe the Pat Burns commemoration before the game got their trap defense mojo working again. Or maybe the Caps forwards were that bad.
- Only two Capitals were on the positive side of the scoring chance differential: Mike Green and Marcus Johansson. Each was plus-1.
- That John Carlson won player of the game is unfortunate. He was on ice for six very dangerous shots against, but luckily no goals. Carlson should bring Braden Holtby along to that dinner at the Palm.
It’s inelegant to adopt the “wotta bunch’a bums!” sports-fan routine, but I understand it. Losing is bearable only when it’s done right, and this was not that. The Caps decidedly did not give a damn for way too much hockey. Those long, diagonal stretch passes through the neutral zone and ineffectual point-blank slapshots into traffic don’t just signify carelessness, they signify entitlement.
Does our team think they should win merely because they can?
It’s messy to judge someone’s intent. I don’t know what’s wrong with the Washington Capitals. It’s possible they’re still shell-shocked by last year’s playoffs and think of the regular season as an 82-game preamble to their chance at redemption. I hope that’s not true. If it is, Caps Nation might tune out until April.
I’m sorry this wasn’t a fun story, everyone. It wasn’t a fun night. It’s kind of sobering to suspect that the fans cared more about this game than the players. Hopefully the team can rekindle their unholy eldritch magicks, drop some peyote and wander the psychic wilds with their spirit animals, or just munch on a damn Heath bar and play like they love the game again.
Please leave encouraging words and maybe a hug in the comments below.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.
UPDATE: John Erskine tweeted this:
The honesty and accountability that John and goalie Braden Holtby showed are admirable. It seems that lack of shame I mentioned in the opening doesn’t apply to everyone.