Photo: Jamie Sabau
This is going to be brutal, but it needs to be said.
The Washington Capitals are one of the worst teams in the league. This is the most frustrated I’ve been with a Capitals’ team since 2001-02, when that version of the Caps missed the playoffs despite acquiring Jaromir Jagr over the summer
I’d be more okay with the Capitals’ play this season — sometimes teams just don’t gel — if they were actually a bunch of terrible players playing terribly. But this team is loaded with a good core: a three-time MVP, one of the best centers in the game, three above-average defensemen, an above-average goaltender, and a bunch of intelligent veteran players. Unfortunately, the players in front of Braden Holtby either repeatedly make the same dumb mistakes, are too passive on defense, or are too careless with the puck.
There is no urgency with this team despite their difficult upcoming schedule and their recent seven-game losing streak. In the last two games, the Caps have given up nine goals against the Sabres and the Blue Jackets. Nine goals. Against the Buffalo freaking Sabres and the Columbus effing Blue Jackets.
Let’s review the Columbus goals. I want you to understand my pain.
Columbus’s First Goal, Shorthanded
As Martin Erat poorly dumps the puck around the boards on the power play, Sergei Bobrovsky stops it behind the net. Alex Ovechkin watches.
As a Blue Jackets defenseman zings the puck around the boards, Alex Ovechkin — the other defenseman on the power play — watches.
John Carlson, who probably should have just given up the blue line, is unable to corral the puck. Notice he has no help. The Blue Jackets go down the ice and score shorthanded. Two dudes make bad plays. The Captain of the team has a front row seat to the goal despite hustling back.
Columbus’s Second Goal, Even-strength
As Jack Johnson takes a shot from the point, Nicklas Backstrom loses his man, Ryan Johansen. Connor Carrick plays soft in front of the net.
A screened Braden Holtby gives up a huge rebound. Goal.
Columbus’s Third Goal, Four-on-four
This one was bad. Brandon Dubinsky skates into the Caps zone while the two teams skated four-on-four. He skates in one against three. John Carlson meekly puts his stick out to try and block the shot. Instead Carlson deflects the puck seven-hole past Holtby. Wave to Ovi at the top right. Not his fault, but he’s watching again.
This goal should happen 0 times out of 100.
Columbus’s Fourth Goal, Even-strength
This was a great play by Johansen, but dear lord it should not have resulted in a goal. Johansen curls-and-drags around Marcus Johansson. That’s as close to posterized as you’ll get in hockey. Erskine — who’s supposed to be a physical presence — doesn’t push his man out of the paint, forcing Holtby to play deep in net. Then young Connor Carrick guards an imaginary person whom I cannot located. Look at this screenshot. All five Capitals players are around the puck. They still can’t stop the goal from happening.
Columbus’s Fifth Goal, Even-strength
On the Blue Jackets’ final goal of the night , the dagger that ended the comeback, Connor Carrick reverses the puck to a phantom player around the boards.
Matt Calvert picks up the turnover, but the Capitals get in good position. They recover. Good!
Calvert then puts his head down and goes to the net. Carrick follows his man; Dmitry Orlov is guarding the paint. Backstrom is in good position. All someone needs to do here is make a clutch stick check.
That does not happen. Calvert blows through Backstrom and Carrick. Carrick leaves his man to try and break up the play.
Calvert passes to Carrick’s wide-open man, Cam Atkinson, with a pass. Atkinson has a layup goal.
In my opinion, all five goals were the fault of skaters, not goaltending. I would have loved to see Braden bail the team out with a save on that long-range, deflected shot by Dubinsky though.
This pathetic outing follows a game where veteran Jason Chimera was criticized on national TV for giving up on a play while shorthanded to complain to a ref.
The Caps haven’t been a good defensive team for years. Even when they brought the Presidents’ Trophy to Washington, they still gave up the 13th most shots and the 15th most goals. What we see now, however, is much worse. George McPhee has spent to the salary cap but has not assembled a viable winning roster. There are problems with effort, concentration, and decision making, which can be corrected. There are problems with the systems, which can be adjusted. There are problems with the lineup, which can be changed.
What happened in Columbus is not acceptable for this franchise, which has come too far in the last decade to blow it now.