Photo credit: Alan Diaz
The Washington Capitals have three dates with the Florida Panthers in February, and these games will determine their chances for a postseason. This one was a so-called “four-point game”, and the Capitals came up tragically short.
After a scoreless first period, Mikael Samuelsson faked a hardaround and then fired a shot to Neuvirth’s far side– hitting the post then net. It was a fluke-y, no-look shot from almost 90 feet out, but it caught Neuvirth being lazy, and that’s what matters. Brooks Laich tied it up with a feisty top-shelfer from the crease during 4-on-4 play. Samuelsson got his second of the night with the go-ahead goal on a third period power play. After a long adjudication, Stephen Weiss was awarded a goal that had been washed out at first.
John Carlson made it a one-goal game with a leisurely slapper from the high slot, but Shawn Matthias grabbed an empty netter a few moments later. Panthers beat Caps 4-2.
- Mikael Samuelsson‘s 88-foot trick shot was stifling. Neuvirth blatantly misplayed it, and the Caps’ offense sort of retreated afterwards. After firing a respectable 11 count on net in the first period, they had only 7 in the second period. If you’re looking for continuity in the Capitals’ narrative arc, it’s that their offense meh-ness is still happening.
- Brooks Laich earned his goal by beating Samuelsson’s stick check.
- Then Samuelsson earned his second goal by beating Brooks’ block.
- Jeff Schultz returned to active play for the first time since December 31st, but played a quiet game. No shots, no goals against, 9:48 TOI, and stout defense throughout. It seems there were no nibbles on the line when McPhee went fishing, so is Schultzy here to stay? It’s not like any other defenders are doing superbly under the new system…
- No one will dance with Joel Rechlicz. He earned a lot of money for less than 3 minutes of play. Quick: what are some better ways to spend half a million dollars?
- A for effort: Troy Brouwer (5 shots) and Brooks Laich (4 shots, 1 goal). And somewhere in the tri-state area, there’s a goat dreading the return flight of Mike Knuble (3 shots).
- If you’re scouting against the Capitals these days, you’re probably saying stuff like “Stay mobile and quick in their zone. If you keep moving, they will lose you.” That’s the way it goes lately, the reason why our goalies have to perform superhuman feats to keep these games competitive. And that’s why we have close games despite the Capitals getting outshot by miles (70 attempts to 51).
- Tomas Fleischmann has had a tough go of it lately, but he was dominating on-ice tonight. One assist, plus-14 Corsi, one crucial breakaway.
- The Capitals’ road power play is 4th worst in the NHL, and they proved it tonight. John Carlson spoiled their first opportunity with a bad penalty after just 10 seconds. Poor puck control made the second one seem more like a Panther’s PP.
- Carlson redeemed himself with some late-game heroics, but he choked just a minute later when he set up Matthias for the empty netter. The kid is in trouble, and there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel just yet.
The Capitals are no longer in the conference’s top 8; they have dropped from 3rd to 9th. If they don’t change– significantly and soon– they will not regain that spot.
But here comes Ovi, who just served the third of his three-game suspension. And each new morning brings us a little closer to the Comebackstrom and what will be Mike Green’s Third Comeback of the season.
We’re not cynical, but we’re not quixotic. We want more from our team and their coach and their management. Every player on the roster has been a disappointment at some point, but there are 32 more opportunities for redemption.
Montreal on Saturday. It’s Hockey Early Afternoon in Canada and Ovechkin’s comeback, so, ya know. Prepare.
Crash the net.