Photo credit: Tony Avelar
Coming off an insane, 13-goal affair in Orange County late Wednesday night, the Caps headed to Silicon Valley Thursday to take on the Sharks. It’s been nine long days since the Capitals matched up against San Jose in the District and the question was: which team would show up Thursday night? The Capitals that have been anemic offensively as of late and the squad that was bested by S.J. on the 8th? Or would it be the cardiac Caps reminiscent of last season who decided to pop their head up against the Ducks?
Well, it looks like we’re right back where we were before the Anaheim goal-fest.
The first period was rather uneventful. That is for about 19 minutes. After Ben Eager was called for a tripping penalty at 18:40, Washington headed to the power play. But it would be Joe Pavelski of the Sharks who score first on the Caps man-advantage, converting on John Carlson’s turnover with just over a minute left in the frame. Alex Ovechkin, however, would take matters into his own hands. Ovechkin threaded the needle to put the puck past San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi just 22 seconds after Pavelski’s tally, knotting the score at one.
The second period was a somewhat of a snooze-fest. Nether team racked up more than 10 shots in the frame and no penalties were doled out, giving fans little to cheer for. Five minutes into the third period, Ryan Clowe put home Kyle Wellwood’s rebound, giving the Sharks the lead. Dany Heatley would extend San Jose’s advantage midway through the frame when he deflected Danny Boyle’s attempt from the slot. With just under two minutes remaining, Nicklas Backstrom gave Capitals fans some hope when he ripped a wrist-shot over Niemi’s shoulder. However, the rally would stop right there. Sharks beat Caps, 3-2.
- The streak continues. It’s now been more than 17 years since the Capitals last won in San Jose. The last time Washington was victorious in the “Shark Tank”? October 30, 1993. The Sharks netminder for that game? Current Caps goalie coach Arturs Irbe.
- By all accounts, Backstrom had a superb game, netting a goal, three shots, and two hits. But it was in the face-off circle where the Swede struggled tonight. Lars lost six of his seven face-offs in the first period, lost four out of his six in the second, and went seven for 20 overall; a paltry 35% winning percentage. On the game’s final draw with 3.5 seconds left, Bruce Boudreau decided to pass over the strong and lanky David Steckel and matched Backstrom up with Joe Thornton. The former League M.V.P. beat Backstrom cleanly, and the Caps went quietly into the night.
- Ovechkin has been getting gradually more consistent with each and every game that goes by. In tonight’s opening period, it was easy to confuse Ovi with a raging bull. The Russian Machine had four big hits — one that was whistled as an interference call — while adding a takeaway, a drawn penalty and a goal. Unfortunately for the Capitals, the Great Eight went into the intermission with a minus one, and seemed to tire as the game wore on.
- What was the minus for you ask? Like many games that have preceded this one, the Capitals gave up a shorthanded chance on the power play. And just like last night, Ovechkin misplayed a rush in the defensive zone. After Carlson fell to the ice at the blue-line, Patrick Marleau raced into the offensive zone with Pavelski planked to his right. Instead of staying into the middle and taking away the pass, Ovechkin aggressively went for the puck. Marleau responded by dishing to Pavelski who shot it past a helpless Michal Neuvirth. At some point, something has to give. Either Ovechkin stops playing the point on the man advantage or starts to show more defensive responsibility.
- Craig Laughlin, who was without his normal enthusiasm and jolliness behind the mic, was reduced to almost a whisper by the third period. If Locker was out of gas, imagine how the players felt. The Capitals surrendered two goals, put themselves in a 3-1 hole, and were outshot 14 to seven during the last twenty minutes. Perhaps the Caps would have fared better had they not been playing their third game in four nights.
- Carlson continues to impress and is staring to creep into the Calder conversation. The Real American Hero had two assists, blocked three shots and diffused a semi-breakaway by Marleau. Imagine what this kid’s going to be like in three years?
- The Capitals failed to get more than nine shots on goal in any period, with only seven coming in the final frame. What’s that I hear? “SHOOOOOOOOOOT”?
It’s nice to prevent the opposition from scoring but with the exception of Wednesday’s contest the Capitals are simply failing to score enough goals lately. As some have noted, Boudreau’s new defensive style is like having a race horse pull a carriage. The Caps just aren’t built to play this way. And it shows.
The Capitals will be up in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon. We’ll see you right here after the game. Now if you’ll excuse me… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.