This Team is Really Bad: Pens beat Caps 5-2


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.

Joe B suit of the night

Joe B suit of the night

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.

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 65th Anniversary

Kettler Capitals Iceplex (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)


    Ray in Bowie • 7 days ago
    “The Caps are gonna turn it around, and you’ll be able to say you were there when they did.”
    NOTHING I’ve seen this year remotely supports that prediction.1

    Peter Hassett Mod > Ray in Bowie • 7 days ago

    Then you haven’t been paying attention. Read the post about “freaking out” from 2 days ago. The Caps are having miserable shooting luck, which tends to even out as time goes on. They have good puck possession, which is the single best predictor of success.
    Pay moar attention and hop on the bandwagon.

  • Bryant Thomas

    How many games has Carlson scored on us this year?

  • Yo8

    That last gif is gross!

  • 28IS(still)GREAT

    One really bad goalie + one sub-average goalie + a team that can only manage 2-3 goals per game = no chance in hell.

  • Seaborn for GM. Sumo wrestler in goal.

  • The Capitals best prospect in Hershey right now is Garrett Mitchell. Call him up, give him a jersey. He plays with heart and can play in all situations. Put him on any line. Trade Hamrlik for a late round pick if anyone is even willing to give that for him. That’s step one and two.

  • That’s almost the worst part of this. With the playoff window closing, if not closed, the fact that they’re going to be okay in the long run is more frustrating.


  • A. Semin
  • I’m really mad right now, not commited to watch capital games anymore until after the draft. Great article to bring some light unto the darkness beneath.

  • “Systems”. That’s the reason. We all say we understand it takes time, but nobody seems willing to wait.

  • CDizz

    Jesus, Carlson is a goddamn double agent. AND HE’S NOT EVEN SNEAKY ABOUT IT.

  • jbowl540

    Semin’s fault, Beags never sacrificed that cow, #BlameWhyno

  • Can someobody tell me why this team hates #85 so much? ES points/60 leader last season, tied for 5th in goals last year. Our top possession player with high skill…and he’s been eating nachos. That is beyond stupid. How is Joey Crabb a superior option at 3C?

    When you ice Joey Crabb as your 3C, you are not giving your team the best chance to win.

  • Hass is better than you

    Hold on now, hold on. I am sure Peter has some Corsi score to negate everything you are saying. Remeber, Peter knows all and is better than everyone else.

  • Ovechkin and Ribeiro were the only guys playing out there. The rest of the team never left the bench. Also, Oates needs to decide once and for all and I think Holtby, as bad as he has been, could be the starting GK in the long run. However, at this point, nothing really matters, the Caps won’t make it to the palyoffs

  • Why was it a good idea to save this season again?

  • I don’t think he’s very good. Last season he was lucky. He’s not a top possession player. He might be better than Crabb though!

  • I think it’s fake.

  • I think it’s closed.

  • JGP

    Putting talent or lack thereof aside, this team is so mentally weak that it’s embarrassing. They’ve been headcases since the pre-24/7 losing streak. Once they give up a goal, it’s like everyone grips the sticks tighter and the floodgates open against them. It’s weird. The way to change it is to have a captain or vet (a la Knuuuuuuuble) in the room to try to shake them up. But not sure who that would be anymore.

  • Well you’re right about the last part, but not about the first part. The Caps had decent possession tonight, but their goaltending is way too bad for possession to matter.

  • tony.namb

    Kinda makes me wonder what would have happened if the Caps had just stuck with Boudreau’s all-offense system. Just say’n.

  • moargoals

    moar goals!

  • Totally agree.

  • In the words of the greatest Canadian ever:

  • Sgt. Hartman

    Well…all I can say is that it’s a good thing we picked up Mike Ribeiro.

  • Are you kidding me man? He led the team in Corsi.

    Facts are facts. It’s not luck when he makes a living crashing the net. Let’s continue to have 16Gs in the press box, because that’s smart.

  • Ovie should never have been made captain. His performance has gone downhill since. Should have gone to Brooksie or similar player. Not at all impressed with Oates. Send him packing and for christ sake, send Schultz with him.

  • sadness

    Just can’t let him go at the end of the season.

    Or let everyone go at the end of the season.

    Or just quietly switch the whole caps and bears roster.

  • I liked his douche hat between the 1st and 2nd periods. But yeah, he’s been good.

  • Aww man, I don’t wanna get into super nerdery and I really do appreciate going to the numbers, but Perreault had the lowest Corsi relative to his competition and the highest shooting percentage — probably more than double what is sustainable for him.

  • JGP

    Also, Carlson needs to cut his hair and we should trade Ovie for Boudreau.

  • Karee Lyn

    No, I think it’s real. I saw it during the second period.

  • Cam

    I dunno – he seems to have it out for Andreychuk.

  • Nothing is for free in the NHL, those are still impressive numbers. He had easy competition, but so what? He beat it, that should at least earn him 4C. Sasha had easy competition too. I really doubt other teams threw their weakest competition at 25-85-28. Facts hurt.

  • Oh, and I’m sure he could win more than 2/13 faceoffs too.

  • dmitry

    First overall pick here we come!

  • I don’t know about fixes… I think coaching effectiveness is an issue but it seems nobody wants to have that conversation. All I know is that losing to Pittsburgh like that really sucked, punctuated by Pens commentators calling our Caps a fragile team…

  • Sasha

    First overall pic here we come!

  • 7734yeah

    agree – but also the team has no heart or passion at all – I watch other games all the time and see much more desire and toughness than we ever have – Green must go as well – he is just awful.


    If Holtby is the answer, what was the question?

  • My contribution to the healing. May the cone of happiness protect us.

  • It’s OK to admit Oates doesn’t have it in him to coach…….. Gretzky didn’t either! No shame whatsoever!

  • Guest

    Or this:

    Oh jesus is life better after that.

  • Matthew Kory

    Makes me wonder too, and in retrospect I wish they had, but if you recall, at the time the team was a total mess. They needed to do something. Maybe scrap the system was too reactionary, but they had to so something.

  • David Pearl-Schwartz

    We need to work on our offensive zone entries. Not only do we not really get set up in the offensive zone, but it leads to turnovers going the other way, and transition opportunities for the other team. The difference between our entries and Pittsburgh’s was atrocious- they skated in and got set up and made a play to set something up while we dumped the puck from way outside the blue line and lost most races to the puck. We clean this up and the offense and defense can both start clicking.

  • God I love RMNB, and God knows the Caps stink, and God I can’t tell you how happy I was to see Mike Knuble stuff another puck into the net tonight (assist, shmist), but all of that still doesn’t make it right to use Malcolm Browne’s iconic image of a monk burning himself to death in a silly way. I mean, a man is dying in that photo. Just sayin’. 🙂 (The other gif’s are hysterical.)

  • Yv

    Again, with so many low hockey IQ plus lack of mental toughness this team that under recreation project for many players will go nowhere.
    It is exactly 1 year from Olympics and you can read about various projected national teams rosters. Very impressive Canadian, American and Swedish team. But how about the 3d line of powerful Russian dream team voted by Russian fans:
    A.Semin-E.Kuznetsov-A. Ovechkin, while #1 GT is Varlamov.
    You can dream only where current Caps could be with them.

  • tony.namb

    Yeah, you’re right. It’s dismissive for me to imply that the problem revolves around a system, or a coach. I used to think that late start to the season didn’t really matter, but after watching how the power outage changed the tempo of the Superbowl, maybe there’s something to be said of the long break after all.

  • tony.namb

    I’m with you there. Ovie was a skilled player, but that doesn’t amount to good leadership. The C should have gone to Knuble or Laich.

  • tony.namb

    The question should now be: “Is it okay with the NHL if we play both of our goalies at once?”

  • tony.namb

    Screw systems. Just play old time hockey. (throw more punches)

  • tony.namb

    I got it. Notice how more of the player have long hair this season? I’m thinking SHAVED HEADS = WINNING

  • Wing

    And I think Mathieu is cute, too!

  • Kayla Mueller

    Oates tries to work his magic in Hershey, the team falls apart and looks like a lost flock of geese. Oates leaves, the Bears are back. Lockout ends, the Caps have now become a lost flock of geese. I feel like the beginning of the season Bears and the current (dare I say hockey team) Caps looked the same amount of pitiful, all signs point to Oates.

  • Refresh the page y’all. GUESS WHO is back

  • This team hasn’t been the same since Juice left.
    (Which is true, but irrelevant)

  • Clifton B

    A reverse Samson you say, hmmm.

  • …and the Voldemort picture is now my facebook background.

  • brian!

    Rage against the machine used it as an album cover.

  • johnnymorte

    10 reasons why GMGM should be fired:
    1. Varly (One bad game 7 and he got hurt at the end of ’10.)
    2. Vokoun (He got hurt. He never had a chance to get on a roll.)
    3. Knuble (The guy was adored in Washington. A cornerstone of the team.)
    4. Semin (Probably the only one that made sense since he’s not worth 7 mil.)
    5. Theodore (For God’s sake it was two bad goals in one playoff game! It was one bad game!)
    6. Kuzya(The guy took Chelyabinsk over Washington).
    7. Dale Hunter(Hell of a plumber)
    8. David Steckel
    9. Matt Bradley (These guys were the best checking line ever!)
    9. Dale Hunter
    10. We have only one 30+ goal scorer.
    The man drafts well. That’s about it.

  • Yao

    There is not enough whiskey in the world to deal with my Caps-related depression right now.

  • Yo8

    Semin? The guy that is wining with his team now?

  • No offense to the wonderful writers, but Russian Machine is busted. Ovie may be engaged now, but not with our team. Do we hear stories of locker room pep rallies? Do we see him ignite the team with the first goal? Has he tried — and mastered — new moves? And our coach, Oates, is the polar opposite. He’s all head games and no backbone. Pulls Neuvie for letting 2 goals? That’s cowardice. There’s some great men on our team, Ward, Chimera, Perreault, Backstrom, Rebeiro, but there’s no lines, no rhythm, and no tenacity. Once Ovie revealed on national TV that he no longer trusted or respected the coach, the men stopped trusting each other.

  • 5bells

    Ovi as captain always seemed like a mistake. Someone with that level of talent + crazy (in a good way, obvs) should only be responsible for doing his own thing. Since it’s sadly unlikely they’ll bring back Knuble (sniffle) & make him captain, I say they give it to Laich. And it’s time to say goodbye to GMGM & Carlson.

  • 5bells

    Agreed. Seems like we’ve been going from one losing streak to the next with occasional glimpses of the success we could’ve had. New coach isn’t enough.

  • They should get rid of Carlson and put Oleksy in his spot…

  • Top Six analyzed —————————————————————————–
    Top 6 F’s 2009 – 125G, 200A, +18, 1,158 shots
    (in 48 games this would be about 73G, 117A, +11, 678 shots)
    top 6 F’s 2010 – 200G, 257A, +116, 1,362 shots
    (48 games = 117G, 150A, +68, 797 shots)
    Top 6 F’s 2011 – 131G, 188A, +96, 1,277 shots
    (48 games = 77G, 110A, +56, 748 shots)
    Top 6 F’s 2012 – 123G, 166A, -12, 1,067 shots
    (48 games = 72G, 97A, -7, 625 shots
    Top 6 F’s through 11 games – 15G,29A, -2, 141 shots
    (48 games = 66G, 127A, -9, 615 shots)

    Pens though 11 games – 27G, 41A, +18, 257 shots
    (48 games = 118G, 197A, +79, 1,121 shots)

    Semin, Fleishman, Boyd/Knuble, and a healthy Laich WE NEED BACK!

  • This whole “learning the system” thing is pretty BS, Caps fans expect playoff hockey, every year, just let the guys go play and score and stop trying to dictate what each person can/can’t do offensively in the “system.”
    On another note, the steady decline of production since 08-09, not just the top 6 forwards, but the D men AND Goalies points directly to GMGM and Ted.

  • Capitals Top Six Forwards analyzed ———————————–
    Top 6 F’s 2009 – 125G, 200A, +18, 1,158 shots
    (in 48 games this would be about 73G, 117A, +11, 678 shots)
    top 6 F’s 2010 – 200G, 257A, +116, 1,362 shots
    (48 games = 117G, 150A, +68, 797 shots)
    Top 6 F’s 2011 – 131G, 188A, +96, 1,277 shots
    (48 games = 77G, 110A, +56, 748 shots)
    Top 6 F’s 2012 – 123G, 166A, -12, 1,067 shots
    (48 games = 72G, 97A, -7, 625 shots
    Top 6 F’s through 11 games – 15G,29A, -2, 141 shots
    (48 games = 66G, 127A, -9, 615 shots)

    Pens through 11 games – 27G, 41A, +18, 257 shots
    (48 games = 118G, 197A, +79, 1,121 shots)
    Hawks through 11 games – 26G, 38A, +24, 153 shots
    (48 games = 113G, 167A, +105, 668 shots)

    Semin, Fleishman, Boyd/Knuble, and a healthy Laich WE NEED BACK!

  • Someone deleted this? This is solid information proving the signed point to GMGM and Ted more than Adam Oates, if you gave Oates our team in 08-09/09-10 I bet we make it past the 2nd round of the playoffs…

  • Vokoun is a PRIME EXAMPLE! look at these numbers!
    2011 with FLA – 22W,28L,6OTL .922 SV% and 2.55 GAA
    2012 with Wash – 25W, 17L, 4OTL .917 SV% and 2.51 GAA

    Looks pretty identical too me except it seems he got a tad bit more goal support in DC, basically the same SV% and GAA that you signed him expecting!
    Hell he is .927 SV% this year in Pitt with a 2.08 GAA!

  • Losing Juice/S.Morrisson/Fleishman/Gordon/Varly kind of sent the team downhill. Why didn’t GMGM make a move at Grabvoski in the off-season when the Leafs were trying to shop him, or get a D man that dosen’t have concrete boots!

  • serpent

    Ray Lewis for captain. He’s not doing anything else right now and he knows how to get a team going.

  • Trade Hamrlik for a new set of practice pucks for all I care, We need Dimitri healthy, and we need to pawn of Schultz too, Kundratek shows on and off signs of possible solid play, comparable to Hjalmarsson on the Hawks in 09-10, I’ll take that risk on him & there’s no way you get rid of Green/Poti/Alzner/Carlson, I just would like to see Green with a linemate that’s not injured/can skate/isn’t a complete idiot.

  • Hindsight IS 20/20 BUT I must say, if we are going to lose, I would rather lose 5-6 instead of 2-5 and watch our forwards light it up (except an offensive system wouldn’t work with the team we have now, hence Oates’ problem)

  • There is no way you can blame Oates when Ted & George give him TWO good centers (Backy, Ribs) an OKAY winger that needs a shooter opposite of him to open up space (Ovechkin) and a bunch of hard nosed power forwards! Not to mention out of our 6 blueliners, only 2 can hit the net more than 5 out of 10 times (Carlson, Green.) Oates’ system would work, look at NJ, how did Kovalchuck have such a great comeback season, put him on a line with Zajac and Parise! Ovechkin should be on a line with Ribs/Backy AND SEMIN…. or at least another threat the D has to worry about, instead of Crabb/Beagle….

  • I agree entirely. We had an offensive team that was very, very good. We lost in the playoffs because GMGM could not or would not acquire a playoff-caliber shutdown defensive player – for 5 years.

    The result? Asking our very good offensive team to play defensive systems that limit our chances – and allow our 2 or 3 brain freezes a game to result in goals.

  • Absolutely true. Easiest change for Oates to make is to take the “C” off of Ovie.

  • PuckBuddyDoug

    Yup. Yup. G-d, we hate being right.

  • Brian: Good point. In responding here i run the risk of making it seem as though I can’t take a joke, not to mention giving this more importance than it probably deserves. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but one could make a better argument for Rage Against the Machine usage than Russian Machine Never Breaks. RATM (Tom Morello is one of the greatest guitar players ever, btw) operates in a world of social conscience, and, as artists, have a bit of leeway when it comes to satire, irony and artistic license. RMNB, on the other hand, is a hockey blog and even though it is the best blog out there, and even though it makes the Washington Post’s hockey coverage downright lame, it still lays claim to that monk photo purely for comic purpose. And there’s nothing funny about that photo. You wouldn’t use a Holocaust photo to illustrate a hockey blog, or a photo from the civil rights movement or Eddie Adams Saigon execution. What about the 9/11 “Falling Man” image?

    I end up looking like a killjoy but I’m not. I think everything about this site is awesome and I read it religiously. It’s just this one photo that’s in very poor taste.

  • kemiisto

    No way. European team should have European captain. 😀 Swedes are good leaders. And we have one who deserves it. The only issue is that in my opinion Backstrom is a bit too young.

    P. S. But please, no Laich. He is talking too much all the time and doing basically not too much on the ice.

  • Matt, thanks for the point. It’s definitely not in good taste.

    One difference between that photo and the other ones you mentioned: Quang Duc did this to himself, deliberately and publicly.

    Also, I hope I can get the same license as a writer to use satire and irony that a musician can. I’m an artist too, dammit!

  • MP85 gives more effort, and the way things are going we should at least reward that.

  • Totes didn’t delete! Looks like it posted twice.

  • I’m totally not convinced yet that Orlov is gonna be a successful NHL player.

  • You are an artist, believe me. Your writing style is hysterical, informative, engaging. I’ve been in news photography for 30 years now (USA Today and UPI during the good old days) so I’m probably hyper-sensitive. Your point is taken but I would still say that self-immolated or set on fire is a pretty fine line of defense. Keep up the great work.

    p.s. Unrelated, my nine-year-old daughter skated with Mike’s son at Kettler. You’d appreciate that during warm-ups last week, Knuble staked right over to the glass where she held an “I Miss You, Mike” sign. He said, “Hey, Alexandra!” and threw a puck over the glass. Boy we could use a veteran right now, eh?

  • Milu8

    I feel really sad about this (my-our) team

  • HAH! I think your graphical choices are spot on, Peter. Well done. Well done.

    The monk and the atomic explosion had me giggling. Not to say I think it’s funny when a monk self-immolates in public but in the context of this hockey team it’s freaking hysterical.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Kay

    I love RMNB, but the picture of the monk is tasteless. sorry guys, just not a good move on your part.

  • Weird that the monk publicly killing himself for a cause he believes is tasteless, but the picture of 200,000 civilians — women and children– cooked alive doesn’t offend anyone.

  • Wow, Matt. That is a great story. I miss Mike so much.

  • FTR, Sarcasm. Concurrency doesn’t mean Causality. The poorly
    made point here is that there has clearly been a downturn. I DO think the “We
    gotta change” mentality after the Habs playoff debacle is key. But there’s a tendency
    to want to assign cause to far too many things. Ovi has a “C”, this coach or
    that coach, my favorite mediocre player over yours. Jurcina moving had nothing to
    do with it, it’s a red herring. Just like many of these other things.

    My midnight post was just shorthand for all of this.

  • Haha, I know what you meant, Chris! I was making the same joke in my head. “It’s all been downhill since we lost Nylander.”

  • sean

    Criticism of Oates’ coaching style is severely lacking. We are probably giving him a pass because he hasn’t been here very long. I don’t know if anybody remembers all the passes he made when there was an open net. Hershey looks lost now, this is not a coincidence, two teams, same result. People can hate on Hunter as much as they want, but he got us as far as BB ever did. On another note, the guy wearing no. 8 does not make his teammates better, and If he isn’t on top he wants to pack it in, take his little wagon and go home. This whole team needs blown up, front to back.

  • I do a lot of work in diagnostics– trying to figure out the cause of technical problems on websites and stuff.

    I think there’s way too much noise in the signal for us to conclude that Oates is the problem right now.

  • 28IS(still)GREAT

    Agreed. Too many Caps fan pin way too many hopes on untested rookies (or relative rookies). Exhibit 1 = Braden Holtby.

  • Speaking as a goalie mom (which I am), I have to say that pulling Neuvy last night was an atrocious decision. He was playing well … and honestly, we have to expect his (and Holtby’s numbers) to be bad. When the defense just allows the opposing team to waltz up to our net and shoot at will, the goalie isn’t going to look very good. But the reality is … if you’re relying on the goalie to save the D’s bacon, well … all goalie’s are human and just like the rest of the team makes atrocious turnover after atrocious turnover, the goalie is going to let in a few clunkers. Especially when the defense couldn’t stop a puck in a wet paper bag. Just look at our blocked shot numbers o.O

  • Unsportsmanlike412

    I was there last night and watched Ovi skate around like a mad man and try to hit anything that moved. But on two separate occasions when Glass and one other Penguin tried to get this “tough guy” to fight, he cowered and skated away with his tail between his legs. No respect for a guy like that.

    But hey man, nice PP goal when your team was down 5-1. Ovi, the queen of meaningless goals. Almost feel bad for #8 and the Caps…almost.

  • KareeLyn

    I’m going to try to not be negative nellie here and I’m all about patience and creating an identity in the long-run, but as far as I’m concerned every time this mess gets blamed on “a new system” God kills a puppy. I understand making adjustments, new lines, whatever. But entering the zone with possession of the puck, not shying away from the boards – there seem to be a few hockey tenants that ought to be present system-wide. I’m not sure why everyone looks so scared or why they fall apart during the 2nd, but surely there is something else at play other than adjustment to a new system. I honestly feel bad for them at this point. You can see their frustration. And it’s not motivational, it’s paralyzing. I think strong leadership is one big way to start to chip away at some of that hesitation and fear that you can smell. cough cough knuble cough

  • So we could get a good draft pick. Which I’m all for.