Caps Fall to Coyotes, 3-2, on Valentine’s Day

Coyotes beat Caps, 3-2

Photo credit: Norm Hall

We’re reaching a key point in the season, as Capitals veteran winger Mike Knuble said after the loss to the Kings, “This road-trip could be great or it could be an absolute embarrassment.”

It seems like all year we’ve been waiting for Washington to just snap out of it and return to last season’s form. But at the start of their matchup with Phoenix, the Caps were fewer points away from being out of playoff position then they were of taking the number one spot in the east.

“If they’re waiting for some switch to magically appear, it’s not going to happen,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said after Saturday’s flop.

It’s time to wake up. And the Capitals certainly didn’t do that Monday night.

The first period was rather uneventful. Aside from an early power play, the Caps had limited scoring opportunities, registering just one even strength shot in the frame. But then in the second, the Caps decided to #CRASHTHENET, as Marcus Johansson used the patented bank it off Martin Hanzal’s foot move, putting Washington on top. However, Hanzal quickly redeemed himself, scoring just 49 seconds later, going five-hole on Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth. With less than two and a half minutes left in the period, Ray Whitney gave the ‘Yotes a 2-1 lead when his wrist-shot hit the back of the net. In the third period, Vernon Fiddler would push the Coyotes advantage to two when converted on a 2-on-1. Matt Bradley, however, would answer right back, cutting the lead to one under a minute later, getting a shot past Phoenix ‘keeper Ilya Bryzgalov. But that would be it for Washington. Coyotes beat Caps, 3-2.

  • Though the Capitals showed a somewhat renewed sense of urgency, Phoenix kept Washington to the perimeter, blocking 20 of their shots while completely shutting them down in the final minutes of the game. Despite the fact that the Caps out-chanced the ‘Yotes 20-10, they had zero chances in final seven minutes of play. Not something you want when you’re down by just one goal. Would the Capitals of 2009-10 have come back tonight? I don’t know. But this team – at this moment – seems incapable of that.
  • If Alex Semin‘s turnovers were paintings, Jobing.com Arena would have been full of Rembrandts tonight. The newly de-mulleted Brian Engblom said of Sasha Minor during the third period, “I don’t think he’s going to need a lot of ice bags tonight.” When you’re one of two guys who skipped the morning skate after a horrible effort at home against the Kings, that’s not exactly what Caps fans want to hear.
  • Dmitry Chesnokov of Puck Daddy suggested tonight that Alex Ovechkin should stop shaving. While aesthetically we couldn’t agree more with him, do the statistics concur? Before Ovechkin signed his endorsement deal with Gillette on December 8, the Russian Machine averaged over a point per game, tallying 12 goals and 23 assists in 29 games. Since then, he has nine goals, 12 assists in 28 games. The Capitals were 18-8-3 with a bearded Ovechkin but are significantly worse with the clean-shaven one at 11-10-7. Someone hide his razors!
  • After scoring on the power play late in the second period, Ray Whitney was selected for Versus’ intermission interview. He had some interesting things to say about the Capitals new style of play: “After playing against them the last five years in Carolina, eight, six times a year. It’s a totally different team. They still have the same skill level but you can tell they’ve made a conscious effort to play smarter defensively. Not really what I was expecting out of them but they’re certainly doing a good job of it. This is kind of our style of play. We’re kind of comfortable with it. To see them doing that is surprising, but I think they’re on to something. I think that’s what’s going to, as a group, maybe take them up to that next level.”
  • Is it time to give up on the Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Knuble line? The trio didn’t register their first even strength scoring chance until the third period. Eric Fehr, who practiced today without a non-contact jersey for the first time since injuring his shoulder, cannot return soon enough for Washington.
  • Even though Mathieu Perreault did not register a point, the feisty Drummondville, Quebec native was on the ice for six chances-for, and only one against. He brought energy all night and was rewarded with three minutes of power play time.

This can’t be stressed enough, this 5-game road-trip is huge for the Capitals. After their loss to the Coyotes, the Caps find themselves in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, making them look at lot more like pretenders than a team with serious Stanley Cup aspirations. We all know the Caps have the skill. It’s time for them for them to look in the mirror decide if they are going to do something with it. The coaching staff isn’t immune either. The general can’t just blame the troops for their poor effort. He must take some responsibility for their actions. If the Capitals keep up the status-quo, they’ll be on the outside looking in.

Additional reporting by Ian Oland and Neil Greenberg.

  • BobbyG

    Another great spot-on recap, Chris.

    With all due respect to Ray Whitney, he should have just shut up after saying “It’s a totally different team.” That pretty much says it all. And with all due respect to the Caps playing smarter defensively, the ultimate objective is to score more goals than the opposition if you want to win games. Epic fail on the Caps part tonight, another very disappointing and frustrating loss.

    Oh, and in addition to crashing the net, how about for God’s sake take Ovie off the point on the power play!

    BTW, I totally agree that Ovie should stop shaving–and stop a few other things too. Don’t get me started.

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  • GDUB

    I think the CAPS number one need at the deadline should be draft picks! sellers not buyers. the team could be having the same exact success if some of the forwards were missing. Kuznetsov and eakin are coming and maybe orlov and they need to prepare for those days because this team has shown us nothing this year

  • Avtopilot

    Ok, this loss was not as bad as the one to the Kings.
    But hell, what’s the difference?

    I predict, that the next one will be a win as they will play with some added locker-room motivation.
    Then a couple of tired losses. Then probably a win in SO. I believe, this is where they are now without any management efforts.

    This is a margin for the panic button. If it is better (>4 points in 4 games), then BB still controls it. If it is worse, then i see no big chance for a PO run and BB shall go…

  • http://make-lemons.com michelle

    Whitney’s comments were definitely the most interesting part of the game…

    Scoring a kabillion goals during last year’s regular season… ended up not meaning a thing in the post season….at this point .. as long as they make the playoffs i don’t care how they get there …. (though some sort of fix for the PP would be nice…. and that means everybody that isn’t hurt needs to show up at practice… IMHO)

  • deann

    If it weren’t for our power play woes and other past non-efforts, this loss wouldn’t feel so bad for me. But I have to ask: why was Chimera out there for the last seconds of the game? He’s a fast skater, sure, but the guy has a hard time hitting the puck in the ocean.

  • 28ISGREAT

    Whether or not Semin practiced doesn’t really mean a hill of beans to me – and has absolutely no bearing on what we’re seeing on the ice from this team AS A WHOLE night in and night out.

    Now trust me, I’d have loved nothing more than to have Semin come back and rack up 5+ points per game. It would have silenced all the haters. But – that hasn’t happened.

    However, the sad reality is that with or without Semin, the team as a whole is performing the same way they have since the start of December. And thats a problem much bigger than whether or not Alex Semin decides to go to practice.

    I will add one thing – I did think 19 and 8 played with more fire and skill last night than we’ve seen throughout this season so far. Backstrom had some magnificent front-of-the-net passes that other players failed to convert on (read: Ovechkin fanned) – and he had a number of golden opportunities himself where instead of passing he actually took the shot – but simply missed or got blocked. Thats a recipe for success if they keep that up.

    I honestly felt they could have won – indeed had a legitimate shot to win – last night’s game – which for this fan is an incremental improvement over how I’ve felt after many other losses this season.

  • Kirstin

    I used to watch the Caps road games obsessively, even when they were down by a few goals, because I believed they could turn it around. And now, I was just watching the game to see BizNasty2point0 on the ice.

  • J.P.

    Anyone who thinks this team has post-season run in them, needs to seek professional help. Immediately. W/out significant changes – and right effin’ now! – this team is in serious danger of boarding the short bus with the other lame-o franchises now making early vacation plans.
    Change should start at the top. Boudreau has plateaued. He hasn’t made coaching moves this season as much as he’s made desperation moves. Becoming the Washington Trapitals? Hasn’t worked.
    Sticking with a PP scheme that lost its balance a year ago and never recovered, in the hopes that pixies and leprechauns will suddenly show up and scatter magic dust, and rainbows that lead to pots o’ golden goals? Hasn’t worked.
    Swearing like found a lost script from a Scorcese movie in hopes that it’ll motivate players? Amusing, but it hasn’t worked.
    Dude’s been treading water all year and is slowly getting in over his head. Best to get him out now while there’s still some season to salvage.

    Top line?
    Other than occasional flashes of brilliance earlier in the season, Semin’s been a gaping maw of suck.
    Backstrom’s idiotic tendency to not take shots when they’re there is only slightly more aggravating than his propensity to take inexcusable penalties at the Worst. Time. Imaginable. And will someone on the coaching staff please remove those Star Trek gravity boots disguised as skates from our dear Backy. My teevee hates me for shouting at Backstrom so much – it’s actually starting to cringe when the voices of Locker and Joe B come on.
    Ovi’s refusal to try a few new moves or create some space and separation from defenders is about as galling as it gets. It’s been said countless times but once more surely can’t hurt: doing the same thing futile thing over and over again and expecting different results is a whole buncha people’s version of insanity. Stop. The. Insanity. It’s making the rest of us insane just watching it.
    Oh, and note to GMGM: trade deadline is approaching, good sir. Might wanna throw a line in water while there’s still some fish left to nibble. The Trapitals need a spark so get crackin’.

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  • J.P.

    Gack! Sorry for the typos and out of sequence words in the above post. As punishment I’ll re-read Mario’s hypocritical, infantile tirade against the lack of punishment for the dirty players in the league, of whom the Pens employ none. None!

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja

    “As punishment I’ll re-read Mario’s hypocritical, infantile tirade against the lack of punishment for the dirty players in the league, of whom the Pens employ none. None!

    Hahahaha … best comment on the whole can of worms right there!

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