The Washington Capitals (Photo credit: Malcolm Browne)
Hoo boy. The Pittburgh Penguins handed the Washington Capitals their rear-ends in a greasy Primanti Bros. bag. The Penguins are maybe the best team in the East right now. The Capitals are definitely the worst team in the league right now.
Mike Ribeiro chipped in a loose puck while Marc-Andre Fleury moaned like a beached whale after taking a blue-on-blue hit from Brooks Orpik.
Malkin tied it up during a second period power play, responding a bad read by Michal Neuvirth with a gorgeous snap shot. Bad defensive coverage gave Pascal Dupuis the chance to beat Neuvy five-hole. Neuvy out, Holtby in. James Neal made it sad with an easy backhand at the tail end of a nifty passing sequence. Matt Cooke got an immediate goal after a faceoff soon after. Then John Carlson scored a power play goal against his own team. That was all in the second period.
Alex Ovechkin scored a powerplay goal in the third, but that was it.
Pens utterly demolish Caps 5-2.
The Capitals took four consecutive penalties. The PK gave up 3 goals on 7 shots through a combination of bad defense and really bad defense.
Adam Oates pulled a goalie for the first time as an NHL coach. Michal Neuvirth got the hook after Dupuis beat him five-hole (though Mike Green was more than a little responsible for allowing that). Maybe the hook had nothing to do with Neuvy’s performance– you can imagine Oates saying something about wanting a momentum change– but I wither at the thought that hockey minds as so malleable that a goalie replacement can turn a night around.
If this team ever gets its act together, it’ll look a bit like one moment in the first period. Nick Backstrom carried the puck into Pittsburgh’s zone before setting up Alex Ovechkin, who did a curl-and-drag move on the right wing. MAF stopped the shot, but we need to see more of that– particularly the Ovi and Backstrom playing together part.
There is nothing sadder than the third period Caps. Utterly without life, they played a perfunctory game of clock-killing punctuated by moments of feeble rage. Take for example Alex Ovechkin’s post-whistle cross-check.
Ovechkin seems capable of scoring power play goals at will. It’s all left circle one-timers, and it’s all pretty great. Meanwhile, his five-on-five play would struggle to give the Portland Winterhawks trouble.
Goaltending is actual human feces. Neuvy was just north of .800 Sv% (two goals on 11 shots), and Holtby seems dedicated to convincing everyone that last spring was a fluke. WE GET IT, BRADEN– YOU’RE HUMAN. Even humans can put up a .940 Sv% every once in a while.
That was the first regulation loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh since 2007, when gas cost a buck thirty a gallon, people played “video games” on something called an Xbox 360, and Skrillex was just a guy cooking meth in a shed behind a Wawa.
Man, I don’t even know.
It’s hard to think this team will allowed to continue much longer like this. Some action by George McPhee seems inevitable, so we should probably get ready to say goodbye to some players.
It’ll probably be the best for everyone involved. Whatever’s happening (and I still have no idea what is happening) seems toxic and pernicious. Any player to escape from Washington might be grateful.
Let’s close out with a question: what can the Caps do to fix this? Trade players? Fire Oates? That’s crazy. Strip Ovi of the C? That’s bridge arson. Simplify systems? Let’s consult the wisdom of the crowds, as my brain has turned into tapioca pudding.
See you on Saturday night, when the Capitals will lose to the Panthers.
Kettler Capitals Iceplex (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)