Blues beat Caps 2-1, Dale Hunter’s Debut as Coach

 Photo credit: Nick Wass

Photo credit: Nick Wass

Dale Hunter hoped to lead the Washington Capitals to victory in his first game as head coach. He’d have to go through Jaroslav Halak to get there, but more importantly he’d have to get a flagging Capitals offense moving.

Alex Ovechkin threaded the needle, setting up Nick Backstrom to record the first goal of the game. T.J. Oshie cleaned up a Alex Steen’s slapshot to tie the score at 1-1. Matt D’Agostini caught a lucky bounce and wrapped it around to give St. Louis the lead. Despite a late-game flurry, it ended like that. Blues beat Caps 2-1.

  • Tomas Vokoun got his 20th career assist on the Backstrom goal. Also, 28 saves for the big guy, which should have been enough for a win.
  • Matt Hendricks had a little scrap with Scott Nichol during the third period, perhaps just to give Alex Semin some company in the 30+ PIM club.
  • As seen on TV: Dave Prior, Olie Kolzig, Neil Greenberg

    Speaking of which, no penalties for Alex Semin. This is apparently worth a bullet now.
  • The leadership of Jason Arnott has been dearly lacking among the Capitals this season. Off-season pick-up Troy Brouwer welcomed Jason back to Verizon Center with a stick in the face. Arnott bled, and the Caps had to kill a double minor.
  • That 5-minute window of penalty killing in the second period doomed Washington’s offensive life. Natch.
  • Alex Ovechkin‘s assist on the Backstrom goal was lovely and smart, but he otherwise continued to struggle with the puck. Ovechkin did not fire his first shot on goal until the third period. That could be expected as AO missed a big chunk of play during the 2nd period PK epoch. Total ice-time? 16:26, second lowest of the season.
  • Catching a puck somewhere on his arm, Marcus Johansson left the ice at the tail end of the second period. He returned in the third period apparently unfazed.
  • Jaroslav Halak had to stop hundreds of pucks to beat the Capitals in the 2010 playoffs. Tonight he needed only stop 18.
  • The troubled Washington power play improved not even a little tonight. Apparently they don’t commit a lot of penalties in St. Louis.
  • Here’s a link to the Corsi/Fenwick totals for this game. Even if you don’t understand the stats, just absorb all the negative numbers next to Caps players’ names and wallow in sadness.
  • No goals against for Roman Hamrlik. This is apparently worth a bullet now.

With a marginally improved– or at least pleasantly masked– defensive performance, the Caps nonetheless struggled in the offensive zone. They got pushed to the margins, where they’d either cycle ineffectually or turn it over. More frequently, zone entries would be aborted by a St. Louis poke check or poor puck  control in general.

Joe B suit of the night

Those who expected Dale Hunter to be a panacea– an instant cure– deserve their disappointment. We must remain patient as this team tries to find itself. Installing a Capitals institution behind the bench might kick start the process, but we fans need to prepare ourselves for a month-long peyote-adled animal spirit journey.

We’ll need to wait a bit longer to see what kind of change Hunter can effect. Maybe all the way to Thursday, when Sidney Crosby and the Penguins bring their infuriatingly excellent brand of hockey to Chinatown.

But we can’t wait too long. This roster is packed to the salary cap, designed to win a championship soon. Scapegoating a coach might buy some time, but there is still a ticking clock for this team.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja n a

    Hey look!  Tomas Fleischmann is now outscoring Ovechkin … that’s also worth a bullet.  Don’t be pickin’ on the Hamr, he had a good game … signed, The Mrs. ;)

    For reals tho … this was a markedly better game than we’ve seen lately.  While the outcome wasn’t that great, there seemed to be a lot more heart and energy out on the ice tonight.  It’s going to take maybe even more than a month for this ship to get right.  Things are going to take a while to settle in … all will be well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryantpthomas Bryant Thomas

    Thanks for wasting my time with that.

  • Bobby Gee

    It’s going to take more than one game for Hunter to turn this team around.  Tonight he got to see up close and personal the challenge ahead of him.
     
    The only improvement I noticed was a better defensive effort.  Other than that, it was more of the same old same old.  Lots of standing around, watching, not generating any sort of attack whatsoever.  At least they were’nt blown out and thoroughly humiliated as they were in Toronto and Buffalo.
     
    So I have to disagree with Sonja, I saw very little energy and heart.  The Caps looked more like they were playing not to lose instead of playing to win.  A little too tentative for my taste, and IMO hardnose Hunter won’t like it either.

  • Sentientcheese

    God this is so meta.

  • Peter

    hahahahaahahahahaha

  • Peter

    hahahahaahahahahaha

  • jjll0rky

    Classic Caps lose a lead and wait till dying seconds to have any offensive pressure.  Also WTF Carlson?? You couldn’t have gotten that Icing there?

  • Jim

    Did you watch the same game I did?  They played pretty poorly until the end of the 2nd.  Decent effort towards the end of the game, but we’ve seen that before.

  • Hfg

    The story here was the Blues D. They played well and St. Louis has become one of the top teams in the west (in my opinion). Not much to do but regroup for Sid the kid and the best team one ice right now.

  • Pingback: Ovechkin Can’t Shake the Blues | Clydeorama.com

  • serpent

    Who’s EGOvi gonna blame now?

  • ORazor

    This was super atypical.  I don’t expect to see another one of those from him for years. 

  • ORazor

    And boom goes the dynamite.

  • ORazor

    And boom goes the dynamite.

  • JessHughes

    Sure Voukun  made 28 saves, but I think he gave up just as many huge rebounds.  I’d like to see a lot more control there rather than just watch in panic as our out-of-position D scramble to deal with the rebound.  See, goal #2 last night.

  • JessHughes

    Sure Voukun  made 28 saves, but I think he gave up just as many huge rebounds.  I’d like to see a lot more control there rather than just watch in panic as our out-of-position D scramble to deal with the rebound.  See, goal #2 last night.

  • JessHughes

    Sure Voukun  made 28 saves, but I think he gave up just as many huge rebounds.  I’d like to see a lot more control there rather than just watch in panic as our out-of-position D scramble to deal with the rebound.  See, goal #2 last night.

  • VaMedic

    Photographic evidence of what many commenters on this and the WaPo blog have long suggested… No, Neil does not actually watch the game.

  • 28ISGREAT

    So is this the meme, that BB was “scapegoated”?  I understood scapegoating to be the singling out an individual for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

    Though I’m pretty sure some of the blame was in fact on BB, meaning his firing was merited.  Just saying – lest we fall into a “they should have never fired BB” mentality.