Thrashers beat Caps 1-0, Shutout Number Seven

ovechkinGoingDown

Here’s a picture of Ovechkin eating snow for the billionth time. (Photo credit: Scott Cunningham)

To all our friends stuck on the roads during this crazy #thundersnow storm, safe travels. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

So the final game for the Washington Capitals before the All-Star break found them meeting the Atlanta Thrashers in the not-so-balmy temperatures of Georgia. It did not go well.

Nik Antropov settled a lucky bounce in the Caps zone, leading to an easy goal against Semyon Varlamov. That was it. No other goals. Shutout for Ondrej Pavelec. Thrashers beat Caps 1-0.

  • Atlanta didn’t offer a lot of pressure in the neutral zone, but they did an excellent job of pushing traffic to the outside in their zone and clogging the net when crashes were attempted. The Caps offense was stymied, so all the Thrash had to do was wait for a weird chance, which they got. Atlanta is still a playoff contender.
  • Our nerd Neil Greenberg is stuck in the snow somewhere between BWI and his luxurious villa estate, so we don’t have reliable scoring chance stats for you. The Caps did fire 36 shots on Pavelec (and attempted another 30), but most of those were marginal opportunities. The net was crash-proof.
  • The Caps power play continues to be an empty ritual with no actual impact on the game. Across two and three-quarters chances, the Caps only threatened Atlanta’s net a precious few times.
  • The Capitals had 5:37 of 5v4 time. Mike Green attended to all but seven seconds of it.
  • Of the seven Caps shutouts this season, five have come against teams from the Southeast division. Craig Laughlin has renamed it the “Southbeast”. Let us never speak of this again.
  • Is anyone else sick of making every opposing goalie look like Patrick frakking Roy? Throwing low-quality pucks at guys like Ondrej Pavelec gives false confidence to those netminders. I would sell your first born child to see some timing plays and one-timers again.
  • Brooks Laich, who is awesome, led the losing team with 7 shots, 3 hits, and a 2-for-2 faceoff record. Alex Ovechkin was right behind him with 8 shots and 2 hits, but Laich didn’t create excruciating turnovers at pivotal moments.
  • After a third period power play, Alex Ovechkin got speared and generally roughed up. No whistle. He looked hurt after that, but he did return for more shifts. Wouldn’t it be a riot if he joins Malkin and Crosby in missing the ASG?
  • Consolation/your-sister-is-your-prom-date award to Semyon Varlamov, who knocked down 23 shots. The one that got by him was an unfettered dart, so it’s hard to fault him for the loss. Then again, how would Braden “87-for-90″ Holtby have handled it? Just stirring the pot.
  • Welcome back, Matt Bradley. You had a monster chance in the second period, but an unfortunate holding penalty in the third. Let’s get that rust off and reclaim your spot as The Greatest Player Ever (According to Peter).
  • Once Alex Semin rejoins the ranks, who gets sent down: Jay Beagle or Mathieu Perreault? Neither had ANY offensive presence tonight, so we wish we could say both.
Joe B's suit of the night

Joe B's suit of the night

At the beginning of the season, some thought the Capitals’ big problem would be their young defenders and goalies. I, an arrogant S.O.B., said the problem would be the psychological trauma inflicted after that offensively meek playoff series with the Habs. The Caps have now been shut out seven times on the season, but they’ve allowed only one goal against in each of the last four games. What’s up?

So here we are, pausing for a short intermission before the final run to the postseason. It’s time to summon all warm feelings, page all sports psychologists, and crash every damn net between here and May. We hereby declare the Capitals offensive slump over, and welcome with open figurative arms a blizzard of goals.

Stay safe, peeps. Catch you next week.

P.S. – Something about a Sputnik moment here.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja

    “Is anyone else sick of making every opposing goalie look like Patrick frakking Roy?”

    OMG … I am!!! And I’m more sick of hearing people blame the losses on how good said goalies are. It’s crap. AP made about 3 or 4 decent saves tonight, the rest were ho-hummers because the Caps were using him for target practice. Shots on the goalie’s chest pad should not count as shots on goal.

  • TheHornGuy

    Or as my friend Jay says, “The Washington Capitlas: making backup goalies look like Vezina winners since 1974.”

    As for the Sputnik moment, it’s the Russian thing circling with no real impact.

  • Pat

    I’ve been positive all season! Through the 8 game losing streak, and all the shutouts, but DAMN! Those guys are really starting to get me down…… It’s almost as if we’ve went from being all offense with poor defense, and now have a fantastic defense with a non existent offense! I don’t even care when we go on a powerplay anymore……….

    Something needs to change, and it needs to change soon!

  • Hale

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ovi look like he did on the bench after nut-case Sopel had crosschecked him a few times and then speared him after the whistle, in front of the ref, with impunity! Ovi also seemed to be dabbing at his left cheek, right under his eye. I said to the family after that — wonder if he’ll now miss the ASG?

    Sure wish we knew what is up with Backstrom. He did not look particularly good tonight. The other night he was looking fast, efficient, and precise, but those nights have been rare. I never dreamed the ghost of Habs past would still be haunting this team to Feb. 2011. I think the team needs to declare a new season starting Feb. 1.

  • MattTheBeerGuy

    Anyone else think it’s funny how the young goalies, all three, can have awesome games but look like fish outta water in the shootouts ?

  • BobbyG

    Same old song. Our goalies and defense are NOT the problem! The offense is MIA and has been for the better part of this season. The ASG break could not have come at a better time. All the Caps not going need to spend some time resting and re-charging while thinking about ways to get themselves rolling for the stretch run.

    And speaking for myself, I wouldn’t mind a bit if Ovie asks out of participating in the ASG. Green should come up with an excuse to join him. Of all the Caps, these two guys play the most minutes game in, game out. They could use a five day breather from the grind.

  • barb

    i’m feeling a little cranky because we cleaned off the dish twice, and got to watch two groups of grown men play red rover on skates.

    i don’t have any answers. i’m not a hockey expert who is going to fix anything with my keen insight or a ouija board. just feeling bad for the caps, that’s all.

  • Ian

    Man, that was an ugly game. As for your question, I think MP has to go back to Hershey before Beagle. Beagle hasn’t provided any offense, but at least he’s effective on the checking line. MP really looks lost out there.

    Is it just me, or was MJ by far the most exciting player on the ice last night?

  • Colin

    I still think we learned the wrong lessons from last year. Our defense is not the problem and really never has been. Especially with Hannan up and not having to play Sloan or other Hersey guys on the blueline, we’re in good shape.

    Our problem is the mental fragility of this group and its coach. They roll and roll and roll, until they hit a little bump and then loose all confidence in themselves. Anyone who says we need better goalies or D Men is not watching the games or even looking at the box scores. We’ve held the opposition to just one regulation goal seven times this month and two goals in two other games. That should be nine wins out of 12 games.

    Its not the talent level or the system. It’s not bad bounces or bad luck either.

    They clang a post and you can see the entire team deflate, thinking “here we go again”. The opposing goalie makes one brilliant save and they deflate, thinking “here we go again”. Then they start trying too hard to hit the perfect spots and miss the net entirely. Frankly, I’ve never seen a team of mighty mites miss the net as often as the Caps do.

    Almost any NHL team wins when it consistently holds the opposition to one or two goals. It’s all in their heads and that is a coaching and leadership problem. If they can get this worked out, they WILL win the cup this year. If not, they probably back into the playoffs and go one and done.

  • lulu

    @ Colin: Absolutely agree. It’s a mental thing; they are immature and lack confidence. I don’t believe BB is the kind of coach who inspires or stimulate them. This is really depressing; something has vanished with this team and I don’t know how to replace it.

    Hope they make the playoffs, but they’ll lose in the first round against ANY of the other 7 teams.

  • Livia

    Does anyone know, do the Caps have a sports psychologist? Do they practice any kind of stress reduction techniques–yoga, mindfulness or the like? It seems to me that they have behaved in a consistently stoic, gentlemanly manner, on the ice and in interviews, following frustrating shifts and games. Still, underneath that public face, they must be fighting mightily to stave off despair. They’re not having fun anymore. The desperate need to score is overwhelming their spark, creativity and coherence as a team. I hope they find a way to set aside their recent losses and the ever-tightening Eastern Conference standings and just play.

  • BobbyG

    @Livia: I don’t think there is a sports psychologist for the team. IIRC Mike Green has for himself in the past, plus practicing yoga for relaxation and overall fitness. I agree with you and lulu’s comments about the Caps lack of confidence. IMO as a collective group they would benefit from either or both to help them be better prepared mentally and psychologically for the inevitable stress of the long hockey season.

  • GreenGuy

    I am not buying the ‘bad bounce’ stuff. Schultz should have been able to slap that puck away. Instead he looked like his usual big goofy self as he got scored on.

    Backstrom had a good chance – at the top the slot with the puck with all kinds of disarray in front of the net – instead of shooting, he dishes to Ovi. No chance.

    Snowmageddon!!!

  • GreenGuy

    Oh, and Semin got another 1yr deal for 6.7 mill (same as Backstrom). I like that guy.

  • Scoops

    “Let’s get that rust off and reclaim [Matt Bradley's] spot as The Greatest Player Ever.” Peter – you’re not the only one. My goal before I die is to get #10 to sign my jersey… 72 times. I only have 70 to go. Here’s hoping I live another 140 years, based upon the time it takes go get each one.

    PS – Very witily written. Definitely a much more fun read than most blog spots.

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  • DarkStranger44

    The offense has certainly been MIA since early December. The defense and goaltending have played well enough (or what would we well enough on a AVERAGE offensive team). But, as of late, the offense has been so inept that even a single mistake by a defenseman or a goalie essentially dooms the team which certainly was the case in the two most recent games. We would be losing with a Vezina trophy quality goalie.

  • Peter Hassett

    @DarkStranger44,

    That’s a very savvy point, and I’m glad you made it. So much hay has been made– before the season up til now– about the Caps’ weakness in their own net, but it’s unfounded.

    Varly, Neuvy, and even weird ol’ Holtby are our guys. I like to think that with every inch closer to 2.00 GAA the get, those critics are humbled a bit more.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Chris Gordon

    I didn’t watch the game because I had no power but the fact that Peter used “Sputnik moment” is deserving of a slow clap.

  • http://singingfromthecrease.wordpress.com Mia

    Here I am, late to the party as is SOP from the likes of me. Regardless, I have to “shamelessly self-promote” yet once again and state that several times in my own blog (Singing from the Crease), I have wondered why NHL teams do not keep a staff psychologist on hand. One NHL team, as far as I know to date, does have one. I prefer to call myself a mental attitude coach, but it all refers to the same thing. I could not agree more with many of you fine commentors – mental stability is LACKING like a (pardon the expression) MOFO. I also agree that BB just doesn’t cut it in the “help the boys get strong in the head” venue. In the last three years I’ve worked with an ECHL team and a few netminders that you all see in NHL creases this season. One of those netminders may just win the Vezina (and no, it’s not Varly, Neuvy or Holtby – how ARE still far from netminders of the Roy/Broduer variety-thanks for mentioning that as well. I may have my own personal interest in touting a team “metal attitude coach” for that CAPS (I WANT THE CUP-AAAAARRRRRRGH), but I solidly believe with all my heart and mind that ALL NHL teams should be juming on board the “nurture the mental growth” bandwagon. Ooops, did I just rant? I’m sure most of you understand. I am always UP for the positive view, so as usual – GO CAPS (but I’m starting to feel like I’m suffering from “battered spouse syndrome” and I do own a Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey). ROCK IT REDS!!!!