Fittingly, the most awkward photo of Ovechkin available. (Photo credit: Marianne Helm)
The last time the Washington Capitals played hockey in Manitoba, Steve Konowalchuk scored a hat trick. Tonight’s game with the reformed Winnipeg Jets had a lot of fanfare preceding it, which makes what happened even sadder.
Off Brooks Laich’s pass, Alex Semin wristed the game’s first goal from a harsh angle. Evander Kane used two quick touches to beat a trio of Caps and tie it up. Joel Ward didn’t clear the defensive zone, turning over to Kane who potted his second of the night with a lightning fast shot. Brooks Laich missed on his shorthanded chance, leading to Blake Wheeler’s goal and a 3-1 lead for the ‘Peg. Hot-hand Kyle Wellwood tapped in the Jets’ 4th goal on the powerplay. Jets beat Caps 4-1.
- After this game, Evander Kane has 7 goals and 2 assists in last 5 games against the Caps. No one wants to leave the Southeast Division less than he.
- The Jets are playing in the same barn the Manitoba Moose occupied, MTS Centre (capacity: just a smidge over 15k). It’s a small place, but those damned Canadians filled it up with some noise. We heard a lot of “Go! Jets! Go!”, the compulsory Ovi boo, and even one “Boudreau” chant. Losing sucks even more when the other team knows how much it’s winning.
- Michal Neuvirth is having a statistics problem. Entering the game he was 3.14 GAA and .891 Sv%. Winnipeg’s three-goal second period made it even worse. 27 saves on 31 shots, including bailing out Jeff Schultz’s bad turnover late in the game.
- Watch John Erskine vs Chris Thorburn:
- The bleeding does not stop there. In addition to his goal, Alex Semin was issued an unsportmanlike conduct penalty for mouthing off to a ref about an uncalled interference penalty. Notch up the PIM counter to 26 and begin smelting a statue. #CthulhuSasha has minor penalties in six straight games, a personal best. Congrats, bro.
- Brooks Laich has been doing yeoman’s work of late. He had 7 shots last game and served on the blueline the game before. That said, his 2-on-none breakway with Jeff Halpern, resulting in a five-foot shot that missed the net, precipitated Winnipeg’s goal flood. Ian points out that had Laich put it the puck on net, the ensuing Jets breakaway could not have happened. Gotta sink that one, Brooksy.
- There’s probably a joke about Alex Semin serving Michal Neuvirth’s tripping penalty. I don’t know what the joke is, because all laughter has been sucked out of the world. It probably had something to do with doing the crossword or jigsaw puzzles. You fill in the blanks.
There is no part of the Caps game that is clicking right now. Not defense, breakouts, zone entry, cycling, man advantage, or two-man advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are systemic issues in the organization’s skate-sharpening or water bottle protocols. But above all else, there’s this: the Caps haven’t been owning the puck. Some guy named Neil Greenberg harped about this a few games ago, and now we see it in practice.
The Caps have lost 4 of their last 5 games. They share the division lead with the Florida Panthers, which is less a team than a compost pile that also plays hockey. The NHL power rankings have the Caps plummeting harder than [every politician]’s approval ratings. As good as this team was out of the gate, they are now equally bad.
This does not mean the Capitals need to make a dramatic change, or that the Trade X / Fire Y trolls should feel any fraction of vindication. It just means that the team needs to try harder. Their game needs to be simplified, refined, and enacted with discipline. And above all else, they must crash the net.
Know @GreenLife52, know win. No @GreenLife52, no win.
See you guys Saturday night. Don Cherry is going to rip us a new one.