Ovechkin and Cookie get stupid. (Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn)
You could say the Caps have been struggling. Their puck possession has disintegrated over the last couple weeks and they haven’t been able to make up the difference with special teams, shot quality, or lucky goaltending. Heading into Minnesota, where no one wants the puck, you’d think the Caps would start the turnaround. But shot quality is a fickle fairy, and tonight she spread her lucky dust on the sticks of the Wild.
Marcus Johansson cleaned up a rebound to convert a first-period power play. Thirteen seconds later, Mike Green put some messed-up moves on Matt Cooke to make it 2-0 on the very next shot, just 13 seconds later. It was fun.
Nino Niederreiter scored on the Wild’s second shot of the game, early in the second period as no one in particular played defense. With Steve Oleksy and Karl Alzner serving time in the box, the Wild’s Ryan Suter struck twice– both times with Dany Heatley screening Braden Holtby. I’m not even gonna try to explain the tying goal, which Mike Green got credit for, so just read our story on that one. The Wild got the lead back with a bouncing puck finished off by Jason Zucker.
And then Ryan Suter got the hat trick after serving a tripping minor in the third period.
Wild beat Caps 5-3.
You knew this next one was coming, right?
- Over the last couple weeks I’ve been appreciating Marcus Johansson‘s work as the low man on the power play. He’s been trying this east-west stuff move right in the paint without success, though that certainly worked when he turned Alex Ovechkin’s rebound into Saturday’s first goal. Good to see his hard work rewarded, even if Johansson is still struggling to score at evens, where he’s got just one more goal than Martin Erat, who has none.
- Bask once more in the glory of Mike Green‘s moves on janky old Matt Cooke. Teh skill.
- Speaking of Cookie, the reformed pest goaded Alex Ovechkin into conduct unbecoming of a sportsman at the end of the first period. I don’t know how guys don’t see right through that. It’s like when Maury Povich would invite the KKK on his show all the time. You know they’re gonna stir up stuff, so can we just ignore ’em instead? Does this count as Godwin’s law?
- After twenty minutes, the Caps led the Wild in shots 11-1. Braden Holtby, who hadn’t played since before Christmas was so totally on top of that one shot. Everything was looking good, but then the second shot beat Holtby (and five eyewitnesses in Capitals uniforms), then the fourth, then the fifth. It’s hard to be screened any more than Holtby was. Dany Heatley, who is 6’4″, 220 lbs, was permitted just sorta kick it in the crease. If he were any more welcome there, he’d have ordered bottle service.
- John Carlson was on the ice and on the hook for both of those powerplay goals by Ryan Suter. John Erskine joined him for the second one.
- Man, did I not miss the delay-of-game penalties. Puck-over-glass whistles plagued the Caps earlier in the season, but it seemed like they were on the wane since November. We saw two tonight– one from Alzner and one from Mikhail Grabovsky. Both DOGs bit.
- The Capitals have allowed hat tricks in consecutive games. First Jeff Skinner, now Ryan Suter. Mike Green did positively nothing to break up the odd-man rush that became Suter’s third goal– something of a pattern for him.
- Remember when the Minny fans booed their team after the first period? I miss that.
It’s weird. The Capitals obliterated the Wild in puck possession in the first. They dominated at evens. The team with the puck isn’t supposed to give up penalties, but they did, and that’s how the Caps lost control of this game. That and just wretched team defense.
And don’t forget Braden Holtby, whose comeback game was about as bad as comebacks come. The Wild didn’t shoot a lot, but a combination of happy bounces (Zucker), awful screens (Suter I, Suter II), and odd-man rushes (Suter III) meant a really really bad save percentage for the team’s number-one– I guess– goalie.
So, we won’t see Holtby again until the end of the month. If you do badly, you get two weeks off. That’s the way it goes, right? Oates?
Alright, I’ll just say it one more time, and I’ll keep it brief. Braden Holtby has saved 92% of 2517 shots in his NHL career before Saturday. We know he’s a good goaltender, and we’re pretty damn confident he’s an above-average goaltender. We are not so weak-minded to let a 11-shot sample shake us from wisdom. Right?
Yes, this was a garbage game from Braden, but looking at the replays you can see how it came to be. The Caps D was really really bad.
Team derp-fense (via Jeffrey Kleiman)
Put the bad reads on top of some bad penalties, and even a puck-possession monster team with a 92% career goalie is gonna lose. The Caps have 75 days off before their next game in Tampa on Thursday. Maybe they can work on defense between now and then? Maybe they can work on rosters too!
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) January 5, 2014
Shut up, Ian.