Matt Hendricks celebrates his shoot-out goal. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Last time the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers met, well… it was bad. But we had higher hopes for tonight and a rejuvenated Caps offense. Aside from Matt Hendricks and the superb Braden Holtby, we got disappointed big time.
Matt Hendricks found the perfect spot to receive a surgical pass from Marcus Johansson and turn it into a goal. Then, late in the third, Marian Gaborik scored a greasy goal following a series of puck bounces and deflections that only the Large Hadron Collider could map. And so we headed into overtime, which has been famously unkind to the Caps lately. The five-minute, four-on-four period was exciting but scoreless, and so the gimmick beckoned. The Capitals lasted until the fourth round, when Martin Biron rebuffed Marcus Johansson and Artem Anisimov beat Braden Holtby with alacrity. A lazy loss. Rangers beat Caps 2-1 (SO).
- Braden Holtby, for the third consecutive game, was a rock in the net. He turned away 28 Rangers pucks, 10 of them legitimate scoring chances. The one that got past him in regulation was the kind of nasty, fluke-y goals that no one wants to see put against their team. Some might criticize his shootout performance, getting beat by two lateral moves in a row, but I’d like to point out his bold, diving poke check on Brian Boyle. And don’t forget the new fan favorite: Braden’s patented big-stick, penalty kill clear. So here’s the crucial question: has Holtby earned another start? RMNB votes yes!
- No seriously, Braden’s save percentage in his last three starts is .967. That’s 87 saves on 90 shots. PEOPLE.
- Matt Hendricks has somehow become the nucleus of the Capitals offense. Consider that at once to be a celebration of Hendy’s grit and a condemnation the team’s prospects in enemy territory. Hendricks had 4 shots, 1 goal, and a capably converted penalty shot– using the same move he used on Saturday night. I wish we could clone the guy. Oh wait. We did.
- Alex Ovechkin had an Alexander Semin-kind of game. He drew penalties and committed them; he led the team in shots but converted none of them; he accounted for more than his fair share of scoring chances, but he coughed the puck up at excruciatingly bad times. Simply put: Alex is the team’s single biggest problem, and their collective success depends entirely on him playing like the superstar that we know he is.
- Ovechkin was back on point for the useless power play unit, evidencing that Bench boss Bruce Boudreau refuses to admit that either a) his man-advantage system is not working, or b) his players aren’t executing it correctly. No one actually cares which of the two is at fault, we just want to see this improve.
- The Laich-Perreault-Knuble line is not doing anything for anyone. If we see this combo again on Wednesday, it’ll be because no one actually reads this blog.
- Overtime was refreshingly lively for the Caps, finding five scoring chances in those precious minutes. That effort was led by a surging Marcus Johansson (2 shots, 1 assist, 100% Swedish), who might have been Biron’s greatest threat all night.
- Cal Ripken was at the game. Cal Ripken is awesome. Cal Ripken hangs the stars. No joke: I have recurring dreams about hanging out at a T.G.I. Friday’s with Cal. In my dream he knows the owner, and he gets me free mozza sticks, and there’s a ton of high fiving and a couple hugs. What were we talking about again?
- Oh yeah, I’ve been burying the lede, and I’m sorry. Here it is: the Caps fired a season-low 17 shots through regulation. Across two power plays, they managed a whopping two shots. Who was uncharacteristically quiet? Mike Knuble (1 shot on 1 attempt), Jason Chimera (1 shot on 2 attempts), Mike Green (1 shot on 2 attempts), Mathieu Perreault (1 blocked on 1 attempt), and Jay Beagle (1 shot on 2 attempts.) What the dickens has convinced these guys to be so frugal with shots all of a sudden? The goals aren’t coming, so shouldn’t they be doubling down, firing any piece of rubber floating near them? Even Ovechkin passed up golden opportunities to attempt some cutesy nothingness. If you’re looking for a culprit for the L, this is it.
So there you have it. The Caps had the lead and let it go. Because they let up the pressure, Gaborik’s nasty but inevitable goal was able to catch the Rangers up. This loss was unbefitting of the work that Matt Hendricks and Braden Holtby put in, but this is the way the season (and postseason) will continue to go until the team enacts its top-secret protocol, OPERATION: SCOAR MOAR GOALS.
Check you on Wednesday. Date with the Thrashers.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg, who is in Ohio or something and followed the game via smoke signals.