Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
After a misstep on Long Island, the Washington Capitals hoped to regain their footing while hosting the New York Rangers on Sunday. After a quick start, the Caps lost control of the game. A snazzy goal by Steve Oleksy in the first period gave the Caps the lead, but the Rangers retaliated with four goals– two of them scored after penalties by Alex Ovechkin. Holtby was chased from the net, and the Caps never really mounted a palpable comeback.
Rangers beat Caps 4-1.
- Possession predicts victory. The Rangers outshot the Capitals at even strength 29 to 19. The Caps can still win games like that, but they can’t do it often. This team has to own the puck, or else they’ll remain a bottom-10 team.
- Steve Oleksy continues his fairy tale. His first period goal exhibited his best virtue: the dude shoots. From anywhere and anywhen, Oleksy doesn’t have the meekness that kept Dmitry Orlov from getting noticed last season. Hip checks are great and all, but if you can put rubber on net, you have a better chance at a future in the big league.
- New York’s first goal was a Derek Stepan softy that banked off Holtby’s skate. Braden Holtby should have locked down that post. That’s what happened, but here’s what you heard on NBC:
- Alex Ovechkin‘s missed hit on Stepan at neutral ice was the cause of both that goal and the momentum shift in the first period. No, NBC, that’s bullpucky. Stepan stepped outside of Ovechkin’s path, so for Ovi to make the hit he’d have to stick a knee out and risk both injury and suspension. Ovechkin already got whistled for interference on a late hit earlier this week; he was smart not to push his luck today. That said, any Caps fan would prefer that Ovi hauled ass afterwards, but to say that this non-event precipitated the goal is absurd. It just exposes Jones and Olczyk as dilettantes who can’t speak intelligently about tactics, so they have to compensate with ad hominem nonsense.
- Alright, this is basically an all-Ovi recap. Ovechkin committed two penalties before the Rangers’ second goal: a hold and a trip (the trip is not on the game summary). The Rangers converted on the delayed penalty and then again on the power play. I’m really baffled as to how Ovechkin committed the hold, but either way: not a sterling shift by the Caps captain. At least he attempted a block on the Boyle goal.
- Let’s suppose for a second that the Capitals truly are hated by the refs– and maybe that’s true– I dunno. How do the Capitals rehab that image? How do they get the calls they want? This is not a rhetorical question; I really want to know.
- Marcus Johansson returned to active duty since his concussion/interminable benching. 1 shot, 1 assist, 15 minutes on ice, and some strong play along the boards. I think he was pretty awful on the Rangers’ fourth goal, but overall it’s good to see him back and building trade value. Sorry, that was snide.
- Still, I wonder why Wolski and Perreault were in the press box today while fellas like Joey Crabb and Aaron Volpatti get sweaters.
- Braden Holtby was relieved before the game’s halfway mark, but not before he surrendered three goals on 19 shots. It was not Holtby’s best day. Michal Neuvirth took over in net, appearing for the first time since February 7th, which I’m told is NOT actually Valentine’s Day. After too many setbacks, it’s great to see Neuvy healthy and given the opportunity to stop some pucks again.
- Alex Ovechkin is still stuck at 699.
- Is anyone else strangely fine with the new Fall Out Boy song getting played at Caps games? That song was basically designed to be played in arenas, and pretty much anything is better than Gary Glitter. Feel free to call me names in the comments.
Dammit, world. Stop making me defend Alex Ovechkin. I am NOT happy with his play either. Still, there are good ways and bad ways to have this conversation.
For example, if your argument includes the phrases “like a man” or “European-style”, you may benefit from some inward reflection before you turn your gaze out. If your point alternates between demanding that Ovechkin become a pure goal scorer and becoming a two-way forward, there may possibly be some coherence problems. And if your point is just an excuse to advance your own Q-rating or get some ad impressions, you are probably not intellectually honest.
But if you are prepared to acknowledge the inevitable decline that comes with age while leveling criticism at Alex’s backchecking speed, have at it. If you are cognizant of the lower level of talent skating with Alex since 2010 while you question the merit in him handling the puck so much at neutral ice, now we’re on to something. That’s how we’ll have a good discussion– by understanding and internalizing the opposition’s points while refining our own.
Alright, I’m off the soapbox. I am burning the soapbox along with the game tape. This game — this whole weekend– was a stinker, but it’s over now.
This coming week will be the most important of the Capitals season. A home-and-home series with the Carolina Hurricanes could launch them closer to the division leader, or it could put the division title safely out of reach.