Photo: Scott Levy
Coming into Friday night, the Caps had been playing well. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they nearly beat two of the league’s best teams. But then they played Columbus. It was a disaster, and a moment of reckoning.
After the game, the fan base — and the team — seemed to hit the panic button. People on Twitter smashed their keyboards, pointing out Washington’s glaring defensive holes and overreliance on the power play. None of that, however, is anything new. It’s not likely to change before playoff time either.
On Saturday, Adam Oates came up with wacky line combinations in hopes of righting Washington’s four game skid. It didn’t work.
The game got off to an awful start when Rick Nash picked off a silly defensive zone pass from Dmitry Orlov to put New York up just 70 seconds in. Fifteen minutes later, Nash was at it again. A lack of spatial awareness led to two hooking penalties on the Caps. On the ensuing 5-on-3, the former Blue Jacket floated a weak wrister through Phillip Grubauer’s legs. About a minute and a half later, Derek Stepan put the nail in Washington’s coffin with a shot though traffic. Braden Holtby came in, but the game was already over.
Ovechkin tried to give the Caps life with a 5-on-3 bullet early in the second, but Ryan Callahan put Washington back in their place just 86 seconds later. This was never a game anyway. Rangers slam Caps 4-1.
- So… about those lines. Why was Jason Chimera in the top-six? Why was Eric Fehr on the fourth line? What’s the meaning of life? I can’t answer any of these questions and I’m not sure Adam Oates can either. Every time he makes a good lineup decision (sitting Aaron Volpatti) he follows it with a puzzling one. I give up.
- However, the new third line of Erat-Laich-Ward was actually pretty good. They seemed to be the only ones getting any zone time.
- On December 8, Philipp Grubauer got his first NHL win in a game at Madison Square Garden. A month and a half later, he’s the Capitals number one goalie, with 14 starts in the last 20 games. Well, maybe. Tonight, he got pulled for the second game in a row, allowing three goals on just eight shots. Nash’s second was a bad one, a weak shot 5-on-3 that went five hole.
- Braden Holtby came on in relief. The first goal he allowed was poor. When the puck came the other way after a Washington power play, Bray Bray kicked out a massive rebound off a shot from Derek Moore. Ryan Callahan was served up the puck so well Carson must’ve been running things. Holts was good otherwise, making 17 saves. I have no idea who Oates will start Tuesday.
- Coming into tonight, the Caps hadn’t scored a power play goal in the last five games, a oh-for-13 streak. With around a third of their offensive coming from the man-advantage — the highest percentage in the league — that’s a massive problem. Washington struggles to win when they aren’t scoring power play goals. But hey, they got one tonight and it was even 5-on-3. Par-ty!
- Speaking of that goal, Alex Ovechkin is still good. His snipe was inhuman. Number 35 for the Captain. Three goals in the last four games. Ten shot attempts for him tonight. That’s just about the only thing going right.
- We <3 Dmitry Orlov here at RMNB. Lately, though, his play has been sloppy. Tonight, he made a dumb pass to Nicklas Backstrom that was brilliantly picked off by Nash. It’s one thing if Orlov is getting beat on his defense assignments, but he should at least be able to get the puck out of zone. That’s supposed to be his thing. He was also on for the Callahan tally. That was his man. He tied him up pretty well though.
- Marty “Alex Semin” Erat will probably be scratched again. Brutal game for him. Three offensive zone penalties, one of which led to goal, another that negated a tally from Mike Green. He even jammed somebody in the plums with his stick. Story of the night — and the last few games — for the Caps. Solid puck possession, idiotic mistakes.
Playoffs. That’s gonna be tough. This stretch of games — with six of next seven on the road — is supremely important considering Washington’s post-Olympic schedule. They currently sit just outside of a playoff spot. If the Caps want to make the postseason, they need points now. On their longest losing streak of the season, they aren’t getting them. It sucks, but it shouldn’t come as a shock. I think the standings correctly reflect the quality of this team right now.
So when does baseball season start? I’m not sure if that’s a joke or not.
Enjoy your MLK Day, people. Peter will be back with you Tuesday.