FOR FRAK SAKE: Bolts beat Caps 3-0

liedownshultz

Just lie down, Schultzy. It’ll all be over soon. (Photo credit: Scott Audette)

In Paddy Chayesfsky’s Network, seasoned newsman Howard Beale has a nervous breakdown on live television. At the height of frustration, he compels his viewers to open up their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Don’t know why that popped into my head just now.

The Washington Capitals’ appointment with the Tampa Bay Lightning was supposed to be an impassioned affair: two tied Southeast teams battling for the division lead. That did not happen. The Caps, perhaps reeling from last night’s overtime loss to the Panthers, never really suited up. The ever-improving Lightning took control of the game and never relented.

Dominic Moore waited for the power play to end before scoring, exploiting some lazy defensive work by Washington. Sean Bergenheim followed up with a home-run swing at one of Semyon Varlamov’s flying rebounds. And then Simon Gagne grabbed a loose puck and beat the overwhelmed Varly on the breakaway. The Caps didn’t even try. Bolts beat Caps 3-0.

  • Welcome back to active duty, Boyd Gordon. How’s your nasty foot thing? Great. So you were minus-1 with two giveaways and two shorthanded chances against. Let’s just call that “spooling up for Vancouver”.
  • Recently injured Tom Poti was on ice for four Bolts chances and two Bolts goals in the first period. He played one shift in the second period before retreating. Tom is clearly not 100% yet, and including him in the lineup at the expense of ol’ reliable John Erskine was a tactical error by Caps management.
  • Jeff Schultz was a lucky guy tonight. He had great, close-up views of every single Lightning goal. Last season’s plus-minus leader was minus-3 for the evening.
  • The Russian Machine broke five hockey sticks. Alex Ovechkin had some bad bounces on Tampa Bay’s ice, yeah, but this was still another stinker from the team’s supposed star. Two shots on goal, five blocked, 5 sticks in shards, 0 results. When will the Great 8 come back?
  • Steve Downie is a bag. I know this, you know this, the refs know this. So in that scrum with Scott Hannan, how did he manage to get a single minor penalty while Scott got a double? His peerless bag acumen. Downie studied under a grand master of baggery in Mongolia for five years. He commands a preternatural levels of bag qi.
  • Two shutouts in a row from Dwayne Roloson. Six shutouts on the season for the “offensive juggernaut” Capitals. Yeah, reality has intruded on that delusion finally.
  • Let’s play “Who’s a liability?”, 5v5 scoring chances edition! Jason Chimera: 0 for, 3 against. Eric Fehr: 0 for, 3 against. But your winner is the scrappy, lovable Mathieu Perreault with 0 scoring chances for and 4 against. Congrats, Perry. Your prize is waiting for you in Hershey.
  • Retooled PP, eh? Fehr and Chimera got a minute, Laich got 90 seconds. Not the switch-up Bruce Boudreau hinted at in last night’s post-game interview.

  • Boudreau’s judgement is now suspect in this fan’s opinion. His post-game interview attributed the loss to bad bounces and unlucky breaks. Hopefully that was his way of spinning the beat and not a sign gross incompetence.
  • Your TOI leader was John Carlson (24:27), a precious bright spot in this endless inky vacuum simply because he never surrendered.

Adios, division lead. The Capitals just didn’t want it. The Lightning outchanced them 17 to 9, the worst differential all season (-10 vs. Buffalo on Nov 13). The Caps consistently coughed up pucks on their own blue line, had no solvent for Tampa’s trap, and looked grumpy on the ice for the entire hour.

I don’t get it. They’re playing professional hockey. If you were playing professional hockey, you’d jump out of bed every morning, clap your hands, and count the precious seconds until puck drop. If you were facing your division rival in a high-stakes match for first place, you’d be an unstoppable whirlwind of high fives and ninja kicks. The Caps should have played you instead of the Eeyores they had filling out the roster.

The boys fly home tonight and will take a day to prepare for the best of the west, the Vancouver Canucks, with their Sedins and their Luongo and a whole bunch of other guys we usually ignore until May. So let’s hope the boys rediscover the passion in the next 40 hours. Because I’m not saying we’re Howard Beale right now, but we’re not that far off either.

Additional pessimism by Neil Greenberg.

  • Peter Hassett

    FIRST!

  • Betsy

    I’d rather watch BSG than any of that garbage.

  • Pat

    I had thought all of this B.S. was behind us!!! Time for something drastic. Like a really big trade of high profile players!

  • peachy

    thanks for the article…for FRAK SAKE….love it…come on poti and gordo…missing Brads…LETS GO GUYS!! embarrassing loss tonight

  • Over_head (Rob)

    Didn’t watch the game, thankfully from the sounds of it, so I cannot comment on that. Only saw the highligh…errrr low lights.

    I would not expect the coach to come out and throw the team under the bus to the press every time they play poorly. He has to use his judgment as to what he believes is the right thing to do at the time based on the teams attitude.

    They have not been playing as well as I believe the can or should for most of the year, but, I believe everyone needs to step away from their computers to take a deep breathe. They are 4 points behind the leader in the conference. Two games, that is it. Frankly, I do not care about the regular season at all, just make the playoffs and be ready.

  • Peter Hassett

    @Over_head

    I’m glad you didn’t have to watch.

    Yeah, the coach deserves latitude in characterizing a game– especially since the psyche of players is his responsibility. But my point is that speaking as he did makes him seem out of touch. Not only is he not blaming the tactical and psychological failings we find obvious, he’s not working towards solving them.

    Finally, I care greatly about the regular season. If you don’t do the regular season well, there will be no playoffs. And the regular season is where good habits are established– particularly the will to win. Remember the Caps carelessness after the Olympic break last year? It continued right into the playoffs, and you saw how that turned out. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: focusing on the Stanley Cup sabotages the team in the short term.

    Thanks for writing, Rob.

  • Colin

    I turned it off after 2. This was embarrassing to watch. Maybe this team is not as good as we thought and it was their performance in the playoffs last year, not the regular season, that is their true nature.

    This team is as tight gnats ass. My goodness, it looked like the leftovers from the Chirstmas tree farm with all the broken sticks on the ice.

    Only one point of disagreement with your otherwise spot on recap Peter. You have MP85 as 0-4. But I remember him having probably the best chance of the night when he skated into the slot and send a wicked wrister through a screen that almost fooled Rolo. It happened in the 2nd.

    But yeah, even if I’m right about this, they still left a steaming load on the ice tonight. I really don’t mind them losing. I mind them being outplayed and out coached.

  • Abhi

    We can’t have enormous winning streaks every January. That was tough to watch, but in the grand scheme of things I think we’re too worried. The Caps have been playing uglier hockey than we’re used to lately and it makes the wins seem less dominant and the losses seem more catastrophic.
    I’ll admit tonight was worse than usual…

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  • Tripp

    Thanks for writing what it is! It’s getting old and I dont understand why Bruce sugarcoats things for his shitbums…… someone said it good above or below, but surely the fuck we can deal with this! When will it happen?

  • Nyutik

    Thank you for the BSG reference.

    Let’s hope the team wakes up against Vancouver, eh?

  • Aaron

    Say goodbye to the southeast division title since the bolts play 14 of their next 17 at home. Caps are on the road most of the 2nd half and the road has not been kind.

  • Neil – RMNB

    Weird how in what is arguably their worst played game this season, BB blames “luck” (when it was clearly lack of effort) yet during the 8game winless streak he blamed effort (which was clearly bad luck).

  • Rockin’ The Red in VA

    This game was utterly PAINFUL to watch. . . we looked like a bunch of homers out there running around in circles. And our schedule isn’t getting any easier ( VAN, OTT, PHI) all upcoming. . . F M L

    Here’s to hoping we turn this “machine” around…. Go Caps!

  • Manda

    Maybe they’re gun shy about coming in first again going in to the Playoffs and would rather fall in somewhere in the middle. Yeah, yeah that’s it. Rank strateegery!
    Sigh.

  • HyperbolicRecipes

    I think sometimes BB is too modest about their victories, and sometimes he’s too restrained in his criticism of his own team. When “we” lose, that includes the coach as well, and ultimately it’s the coach who needs to set the course for the team.

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  • http://georgiaave.wordpress.com/ Noah

    Get ‘em!

  • Rick

    “I dont get it…. ” was the best paragraph I’ve read about Caps hockey this year. If only I could skate like those Eeyores. Keep up the fun work.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja

    I tell you what this looks like to me … it looks like a team that is in the midst of a power struggle with it’s coach. That they can step up and play so well against Pittsburgh, yet perform so poorly against Tampa and the Cats is indicative of a team that is having some “issues” behind the scenes. The breakdown seems to occur along Hershey/not Hershey lines. As in, those who came up through the Hershey system are still playing their hearts out and those who did not (with one or two exceptions -MJ90) are skating in big circles and breaking their sticks a lot. In any case, they barely look like a team any more … they look like a collection of hockey players all wearing the same jersey and sometimes skating in the same direction. That is what makes me so very sad and upset about all of this. What has happened to the “team” ??

  • 28ISGREAT

    BB = Buh Bye

  • Brian

    I think Gagne’s goal – on a 2-on-0 – was symbolic of the Caps season. Clearly Schultz & Green just didn’t care enough to skate hard and get back to at least try and break up the play. No passion, no guts. That’s what we’re getting out of the Caps this year.

    What’s sad is that Varly seems to be stepping up and taking over as the #1 goaltender, which was one of the Caps weaknesses in the past. So now we’ve got a hot goalie and no scoring. It’s becoming a drag to be a fan at this point.

  • GreenGuy

    Russian Machine Always Breaks hockey sticks and coasts around waiting for the play to come to him. That’s no way to play a full game. And Alan May thinks Ovi is fat.

    Seriously we may be lucky to make the playoffs. This team just doesn’t seem to have the desire.

    And for FRAK’s sake, why do they keep scratching Erskine. IMHO he must play every game like Green and Carlsner. Hannan is the guy who needs scratching. Hannan may be a nice guy but he has done absolutely zero to impress me since coming here. I wish we had just stuck with Flash.

    And we need Bradley back.

  • Bucky Katt

    Colin sez: “I turned it off after 2.”

    Same here. I can live with the losing…it’s the lackadasical, non-chalant ways the team continually seems to fall into that gets me. Watching the Caps play last night you would swear that NONE of these guys practices together. Nobody looked really in sync with the exception of Varly.

    Just putrid.

  • Manda

    @GreenGuy Yes!

  • Peter Hassett

    @GreenGuy,

    I’m with you on Erskine playing– since he’s reliable and tough and motivated (if not super talented). But scratching Hannan instead doesn’t seem like the right solution to me. Unlike Poti and Schultz, Hannan wasn’t on ice for a goal against last night, and he has been doing great since the end of the losing streak.

    BUT WE NEED BRADLEY BACK.

  • Over_head (Rob)

    @Peter Hassett

    My time last night was spent skating at an outdoor rink freezing my can off dodging children laying all over the ice. Which, from the sounds of it, was a better way to spend time than watching this game.

    I understand your point about the comments making BB seem out of touch, but I do not think that is the case at all. During the losing streak it appeared he was really hard on the team publicly, mostly because of the HBO coverage. He maybe just trying to cut them some slack. He knows the team did not play well, the team knows the team did not play well. At least I hope they do. I imagine he is working toward solving the problems, his job is at stake.

    @Brian

    You might say Green did not skate back hard, but Shultz certainly did. He attempted to stop the puck at the blue line to maintain the zone and it hopped over his stick. He skated back pretty hard, but he is not going to catch Gagne, who was already flying out of the zone. That was all Mike Green, he needs to read that play and start getting back as soon as the puck is free in that area of the ice. He did not. Mr. Green is not going to catch a flying Gagne when he has that much of a start on him either, which is why he needed to be pulling back to the center of the ice prior to that.

  • Peter Hassett

    @Rob,

    That’s a good point.

  • J.P.

    Thank God Bruce reshuffled that PP line-up like he was hinting at, eh? Dividends and pennies from heaven all over the place from that move! Wait, what??

    (sigh) I used to think that most of the criticism of BB was unjustified, but his inability or unwillingness to make changes is starting to make me rethink my stance on that. Yeah, he implemented some sort of trap defense that may or may not be working – time will tell – but when you look at how bad the PP has been, and it’s been pretty awful since LAST YEAR, and you realize that almost nothing has been done about it, well, you start to think that maybe that BB’s level of stubborness/wishful thinking/ incessant commercial making(snarkshot!)… is hindering our once-feared PP and ultimately taking points off the board. Blow the damn thing up and see what happens! Changes and adjustments are part and parcel of every sport. It makes no sense to keep staying the course when the course keeps punching ya right in the mouth, almost like it’s trying to tell ya somethin’…

  • NHL Observer

    I’ve heard a lot of interesting theories about the Caps problems this year, but it comes down to two serious issues.

    1) They are atrocious when handling the puck. They are in the top 10 in the league for giveaways and it doesn’t matter who is doing it, but the problem is magnified when they cough up the puck in their own end or fail to clear the zone. I can’t be the only person who sees this. Backstrom, Ovechkin, Semin and Green keep making the same poor plays with the puck and they keep getting stripped and the next thing that happens is an odd-man rush the other way.

    2) They simply won’t drive to the net. The Power Play and the lack of scoring at even strength comes down to a lack of driving to the net and jumping on rebounds. The Caps are great at hitting goaltenders in the logo. It’s frustrating to watch the team put itself in a position night after night, where there could be scoring chances, if they would keep the puck on the ice and generate rebounds to cash in.

    There’s a difference between working hard and working smart. Brooks Laich got offended the other day, when someone suggested in an interview that the Caps maybe weren’t working as hard as they should. Well, the truth is, the mental mistakes (giveaways, bad penalties, poor passing) outweigh the improvements on defense (shot blocking and clearing the slot). The boys may be working hard, but they are playing like they don’t care much right now, and they don’t care where they finish, as long as they make the playoffs, because that’s when things matter. Well, you can’t turn good play and bad play on and off like a light switch.

    I really like Bruce Boudreau, and he’s actually made some important adjustments to the team’s style of play that COULD pay dividends, but only if they work at both ends of the ice. My concern is that the team is mailing the regular season in, and they won’t be ready for the playoffs. They’ll simply get rolled over in the first round and get their coaching staff fired. This team lacks consistancy and heart and it has for a while. Too many bad first periods. Too many blown leads in the third period, and then there was the forgettable December. There are a lot of Caps who will do “a lot” to win. I don’t see any Caps who will do “anything” to win.

  • Lefty

    Good posts by everyone, but I’m wondering why only one touched on something that has been bothering me for awhile. The stupid penalties. Here we haven’t had Semin on the ice for a few games and the rest of the team has stepped up to fill his stupid penalty void. There are multiple reasons the CAPS aren’t playing well and I just hope the coaches and the players get it figured out and fixed. I don’t want to be watching playoff hockey in a few months with no CAP team in it.

  • BobbyG

    “The Caps didn’t even try.”
    “I don’t get it.”

    That pretty much summarizes last night’s game and my response to it. How and why the Caps couldn’t be motivated to play for the top spot in their division is incomprehensible and totally unacceptable.

    I can’t add much more to the excellent posts before mine, except to single out a few with especially insightful observations:
    —@Peter: your take on the importance of the regular season to establish good habits, especially the will to win is spot on correct
    —@sonja: you and I are wondering about the same things: where has the Caps “team” gone, is there a power struggle with the coach, is thereand internal strife between the Hershey/non-Hershey players?
    —@Bucky Katt: YES YES YES! It isn’t the losing that bothers me so much, it’s how the Caps lose. Lackadaisical, non-chalant, lazy play just won’t cut it if the Caps expect to go far in the playoffs. Correction: if the Caps hope the MAKE it to the playoffs.
    @NHL Observer: you rightfully singled out two of the worst Achilles heels on the Caps, which goes back to what Peter said about the importance of the regular season to establish good habits. The Caps seem unable, or unwilling, to control the puck and go to the net. And if these shortcomings aren’t resolved, well, even Howard Beale won’t be able to save them and us Caps fans for what will follow.

    @Betsy and/or Nyutik: what is BSG that would be preferable to watch? I might have to try it if the Caps continue playing like they did last night.

  • Colin

    @Lefty – Yes, Hadeed apparently pays them for a certain number of team “accidents” and without Sasha Minor in the lineup, everyone else needs to step up and into the box to meet the quota. :)

  • Bucky Katt

    NHL Observer sez: “My concern is that the team is mailing the regular season in, and they won’t be ready for the playoffs. They’ll simply get rolled over in the first round and get their coaching staff fired. This team lacks consistancy and heart and it has for a while. Too many bad first periods. Too many blown leads in the third period, and then there was the forgettable December. There are a lot of Caps who will do “a lot” to win. I don’t see any Caps who will do “anything” to win.”

    BINGO! Spot on.

  • Northern Boy

    Agree with Green Guy. Looks like Ovi showed up at camp with 5-10 extra pounds of non-muscle. Here’s a telling stat. Look at the top 30 scorers in the NHL. Ovi is the only player averaging more than a minute per shift. He stays on the ice way too long. THAT’S SELFISHNESS. If you’re best players aren’t you’re best players then you’re in trouble. I suspect Boudreau knows this. Put Crosby in his place and the Caps already have a Cup in their place. And it’s not because Crosby’s more talented.

  • Northern Boy

    Sorry, I meant to say that if your best players aren’t your best leaders then your in trouble.

  • Peter Hassett

    @NorthernBoy

    Haha. Everyone needs an editor is what I always say.

    I get the feeling Ovi pulls the “put me in coach” move a lot, and BB trusts him even if he shouldn’t. But ultimately it’s Bruce’s call who plays and who doesn’t. Everyone is eager to play, but BB should know by now that giving OVechkin oodles of ice time isn’t making progress.

    P

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