Rangers beat Caps 2-1 (SO), Offense M.I.A.

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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).

    "How 'bout the power of flight? That do anything for you?" (Photo credit: Evan Vucci)

    "How 'bout the power of flight? That do anything for you?" (Photo credit: Evan Vucci)

  • 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.
Joe B's suit of the night

Joe B's suit of the night

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.

  • Peter Hassett

    FIRST!

  • DarkStranger44

    Know any good OFFENSIVE free agents on the market this summer. Memo to Caps: sign them up!

  • http://katietothemax.tumblr.com KB

    It looks like Cal has been spending more time hanging out at Fridays and chowing down on loaded potato skin apps than at the batting cages lately judging by the extra weight he’s carrying around in those awful Xfinity cable commercials that I was subjected to over the holidays.

  • Peter Hassett

    @KB, he’s still drinking his milk!

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  • Avtopilot

    I vote no – next will be Varly.

    Holtby was great, but the rule is the rule – you lose, you move :-)
    clear rules is the only way to keep morale of 3 young goaltenders high and keep a good competition going.
    In the meantime Holtby can work on SO.

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  • HyperbolicRecipes

    @Avtopilot – I think the “win one, get one” rule only truly applies when all of your goalies are at 100% health. Varly was a backup for Holtby, but it doesn’t mean he was at 100%.

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  • 28ISGREAT

    First – I officially cannot return home to my family of Rangers fans – I love them too much to listen to them sound like royal, gloating a-holes.

    Second – nasty little dig at #28 in there guys. Personally, I’d rather see Ovechkin have a few more “Alex Semin-kind of games” and get a few more hat tricks this season. Just sayin…

    Third – I am not sold on Holtby.

    Admittedly, a great game for him last night – until the shootout – when we might as well have had an empty net. But if we find ourselves in a life or death struggle to win the SE conference (a struggle which I think we may now be entering) – then he’s not the guy I want minding our nets.

    Give me Varly’s brittle groin before Holtby’s alternate universe of quirks and quarks. Or better yet – buy us a veteran goalie. Why on earth didn’t we snatch up Roloson!?

  • Fedor Fedin

    @DarkStranger44 Matt Moulson is an incredible scorer and I think he’s among those who’ll be traded at the deadline. Justin Williams can score, too.

  • Mary K

    Where was Locker last night?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian

    @Mary K

    The game was nationally televised on Versus last night and Craig isn’t under contract with them. So we got one of their guys. And I thought it was entertaining. Honestly, any nationally televised game where Eddie Olczyk and Mike Milbury are absent, is fine by me!

  • Hale

    @28ISGREAT — you see, everyone misses Semin so much they can’t help but find a way to drag him into the comments even when he’s not playing. That game last night was so boring. Every game lately I miss Semin because he makes it so damned interesting all the time.

  • Livia

    @Ian
    I agree it’s always nice not to have to listen to Eddie Olczyk and Mike Milbury, but Billy Jaffe drove me crazy. It was as if he had been hired to market the Rangers to a national audience as America’s Sweethearts: “New York loves a hard-working team…New York loves a resilient team…look at what they’ve been able to accomplish with all of these AHL call-ups…what a great job Joe Tortorella has done with this young team…” The Rangers this year are a great story, no doubt, but the imbalance in this analyst’s commentary seemed extreme to me. It’s a small thing compared to the absence of the Caps’ offense, but I’m just sayin’. Joe B. is way too classy to do such a thing–good on him.

  • GreenGuy

    When I see this post about “Bowling with the Caps”:

    http://capitals.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=550021

    It makes me think of Ovechkin’s commercial where his head is in a bowling ball bag, and says to the youngster: “Bowling never made anyone better at hockey. More practice for you”

  • BobbyG

    When Hendricks becomes “the nucleus of the Capitals offense” and the team collectively gets off an anemic 17 SOG through regulation, you know they have problems. And whatever mental block Coach Boudreau has keeping Ovie on the point for the power play is as frustrating as it is incomprehensible. Sticking with a plan that goes nowhere is beyond stubbornness, it’s an example of setting up the team to fail.

    I like Holtby, he has been impressive when given the opoortunity to start. But I’m still not convinced he can carry the Caps through the playoffs in grueling best-of-seven series. He looked uncomfortable and out of his league in spots during the SO, and although shootouts won’t be an issue in the playoffs, pressure situations will be. I say give him more game experience for the remainder of the season, let him get a good look at different teams and shooters, and just maybe he’ll be ready when the postseason fun and games begin.

    And as for Ovie…what else can I say that Peter hasn’t already said in his recap? After his hat trick performance against the Leafs two nights ago, I was ready to proclaim him as ready to bust loose and perform as we know he is capable of. Last night he was inconsistent as hell, at times showing flashes of brilliance only to be offset by taking bad penalties and giving up the puck. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, if it’s a physical or mental problem, but something isn’t right. And unless and until he gets things right again, it’s going to be an up and down ride for him and the Caps for the rest of the season IMO.

  • J.P.

    28ISGREAT: Or better yet – buy us a veteran goalie. Why on earth didn’t we snatch up Roloson!?

    GMGM feels that the available NHL product is no better than the talent in house, and he’s right.
    The Cap’s woes are not in goal, anyhow. The lack of offense and a putrid PP that BB refuses to change are the major malfunctions on this team. The Caps are obviously not listening when BB tells ‘em to take more shots and hit the net and BB is not paying attention to that nagging subconscious of his that’s telling him to blow this PP unit the fuck up and let someone else have some crack at it. Bringing in Roloson, Nabokov, etc won’t change the dysfunction or the dynamics listed above. Only the players and the coaches can do that. Whether they’re willing to is another matter entirely.

  • http://youresovain-dailyvanityplates.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Holtby was outstanding until the shootout. I feel like the team’s lackluster offense let him down. It shouldn’t have gone past regulation, but again, we can’t score. You can’t get down on Holtby bc he wasn’t good in his first every NHL shootout. I think he’s earned the start against Atlanta and I hope we pay Atlanta back for making us look stupid 3 times already this year. Trying to be hopeful and optimistic.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian

    @Livia

    To be honest, I didn’t really notice Jaffe’s pro Rangers propaganda all that much. However, that was probably because I was completely tuning him out. I will say this. Joe B. is probably the third best hockey play-by-play guy nationally. He’s right behind Mike Emrick and Gary Thorne in my book. He’s so good at what he does. The thing that I respect about him the most is that he always manages to be just as excited about another team’s goal as he is for the Capitals when he does games nationally. For me, that’d be very difficult to do, especially after you’ve made such a huge emotional connection to the team. He always is on top of every player in every organization, and he does fantastic and tireless research. I actually met him for the first time as a media man two weeks ago at Kettler (meaning, I met him before as a twelve year old!) and he’s just so charming and nice. We are all really blessed to have him in this market. I really think he sells and explains the game well, and his enthusiasm is contagious.

  • Livia

    @ Ian

    I’d do well to take a page out of your book and learn to tune out whatever parts of the broadcast I find unhelpful. Practice, practice, practice. I agree with you completely about what great play-by-play analysts Joe B. and Mike Emrick are. I’ll have to get to know Gary Thorne.

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