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.