All Over But the Shouting: Stars beat Caps 5-0

It seems the Washington Capitals didn’t have anything left in the tank after that trip through California. Since then, it’s been a spirally flush down a soiled toilet. This time, someone remembered to flush. The Dallas Stars didn’t even have to be good because the Caps were freaking awful.

Tyler Seguin scored after a turnover. Ray Whitney scored after a turnover. Dustin Jeffrey scored after a defensive clustereff and then again in the third. Garbutt got a shorty.

It was never close. Ever.

Stars beat Caps 5-0. Shutout. Dagger. Coffin. Fat lady.

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We’re back to take a look at the final couple weeks of the Washington Capitals’ regular season. Plus, Ian wants to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about wearing spandex, and I talk way too fast about Adam Oates and Alex Ovechkin.

Somewhere in there we also discuss the promo skills of the WWE’s Brock Lesnar, discuss different ways to fan out over hockey, and wrap up in time to watch the HIMYM finale (which was awesome, and I totally called it). It gets a little dour and rant-y at times, but I promise we finish on a happy note.

Be sure to add our podcast to your feed reader or whatever. We’ll be adding the show to iTunes sometime today.

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Molly Riley

This photo of Beagle and Ovi celebrating a goal is from 2012. (Photo: Molly Riley)

As reported by Adam Vingan, Alex Ovechkin failed to get a single even-strength point in March. He finished the month in grand style by getting outshot* 15 to 5 against the Nashville Predators. Ovechkin is still the favorite to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored during the regular season, but when that happens it won’t be because of what’s happening during even-strength play. Ovi’s struggles with puck possession mirror those of the Capitals overall, but what’s happened in the last two weeks is particularly noteworthy.

Since March 16th, Ovechkin has shared the top line with Jay Beagle. Usually a fourth liner, Beagle’s promotion up the ranks has been surprising, though not totally unexpected. Injuries to Mikhail Grabovski and Brooks Laich depleted Adam Oates’ options at the center position. The big road trip in California gave Oates another reason to boost Beagle: splitting up Backstrom and Ovechkin should have created two scoring lines that would have made match-ups harder for home teams.

It didn’t turn out that way. Possession and production among the top six has been scant, and the Ovechkin-Beagle pairing has been the worst of all.

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John Russell

Photo: John Russell

The weekend hasn’t been kind to the Washington Capitals. Aside from the Leafs, the Caps’ competition in the wild card race all gained ground while the Caps floundered against the Bruins. Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators was a crucial opportunity to stay on pace. And while Nashville had a headlock on Washington during even strength, the Caps managed to summon up some special teams magic to keep the game interesting. Or excruciating, depending on your attitude.

The Capitals got on the board first with a beautiful five-on-five unicorn: Nick Backstrom stole the puck, served it to Mike Green, who found Troy Brouwer alone at the back door. Nashville stuck back 100 seconds later with Patric Hornqvist’s goal following a big rebound off Halak’s chest. Hornqvist wasn’t done, scoring a semi-breakaway late in the first as the Caps momentarily forgot what they’re supposed to do at their own blue line (hint: defense).

The second period was all Nashville, but Halak was halaking like there was no tomorrow. The Caps earned back-to-back power plays and converted the second of them, a frantic backhand by Brouwer in the slot. Shea Weber restored Nashville’s lead nine minutes into the third period with a monster slapshot. Nick Backstrom tied it a few minutes later, converting a power play with a slapshot as the bowels of Caps nation collectively liquefied.

Overtime gave us no decision, so here we go with the…

Shootout bullets!

  • Jarnkrok was a sidewinder, but Halak smashed him with a shovel.
  • Kuznetsov missed wide again. He’s not gonna like that.
  • Craig Smith scored on an early release.
  • Grabo got blocked.
  • Josi denied low.
  • Nick Backstrom, who is not Calle Johansson, blocked.

Perds beat Caps 4-3 (Shootout).

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Photo: Mitchell Layton

With eight games left to play, the Capitals are two points out of a wild card spot. Columbus (reminder: apparently now they’re good a team) and Detroit have 82 points to Washington’s 80. In the final two weeks of the regular season, the Caps must close the gap.

They’re not going to do it playing like they have been. According to Sports Club Stats, the Caps have a one-in-four chance of making the playoffs right now. That’s a fun coincidence, because they also have just one forward line out of four that doesn’t look like hot garbage.

In this week’s snapshot, we take another look at the Caps’ chances of making the playoffs and suggest one painfully obvious way to improve them. (Hint: it’s in the headline.)

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Evgeny Kuznetsov Scores Unlikely Goal in Final Minute

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The Capitals sort of played a stinker against the Boston Bruins. There was precious little to enjoy about the game: a couple flashy saves by Braden Holtby, Jason Chimera crashing the net, maybe Ian rocking the spandex with the Brouwer Rangers. Thanks to the game’s final minute, we can add one more to that list: Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s stinger of a goal.

Seemingly defeated by Carl Soderberg’s insurance goal with seven minutes left, the Caps struggled to put together any kind of offensive push in the closing minutes of rego. Troy Brouwer made one such push, but the Bruins D tied him up. That play looked like it would fizzle like so many others against Boston.

Enter the New Guy.

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Bruins beat Thrashers 4-2

Patrick Smith

What is the Bruins guy doing here? (Photo: Patrick Smith)

The Washington Capitals were poised to seize a wild card slot with a win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon. That’s exactly what would have happened except for the small matter of Boston absolutely dominating the game.

This is going to be one of those recaps.

AARP member Jarome Iginla scored his first of two goals in the second period, exploiting a breakout by the Capitals. Carl Soderberg got a powerplay marker from the not-perimeter while Eric Fehr was in the box. Iginla scored again a few minutes later, but Jason Chimera ended the shutout with a crash-the-net tap-in late in the second period.

The Bruins made it 4-1 on a soft charging call against Alex Ovechkin. Soderberg kinda interfered with Holtby as Bergeron swept the goal home, but no matter: the game was already over at that point. Evgeny Kuznetsov got a fancy no-angle goal in garbage time.

Bruins beat Caps 4-2.

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Photo: Chris Gordon

Editor’s note: Hockey Prospectus projected Troy Brouwer to score 21 or 22 goals this season. Ian did not consult the book before betting the Brouwer Rangers that he would not even hit twenty. The stakes if he lost: Ian would have to dress up with the B.R. and attend a game in full regalia. Brouwer scored twice on March 16th, and Ian has been dreading this coming Saturday ever since. To get you wayyyyyy more ready than you need to be for the big day, we turn things over to the Brouwer Rangers.

As you should know by now, Ian is set to join the ranks of the Brouwer Rangers. On Saturday, March 29, 2014, during a #mustwin hockey game between your Washington Capitals and those bastardly bastards of Beantown, Ian will don spandex, fanny pack, and helmet as retribution for a momentary but utter lack of judgment. It will be glorious.

In the meantime, let’s recap how Ian arrived in this tight spot (spandex joke!).

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Backstrom and Ovechkin at practice. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster

The sacrificial bloodletting that was the Capitals’ shootout loss to the Kings threatened to cost Washington their most important center in Nick Backstrom and a veteran defenseman in Jack Hillen.

Based on Thursday’s practice, there’s some good news: Nick Backstrom seems to be unscathed.

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standings

Tuesday night action in the NHL had huge repercussions for the playoff race. The Caps again earned a loser point against the awesome Kings, but it wasn’t enough to vault them over the competition. And while the current standings look like a tense four-way tie for the conference’s two wild card spot, it’s not that simple.

Because of all those shootout wins early in the season, the Caps are lagging in regulation and overtime wins (ROW), which is the primary tiebreaker should teams be tied after 82 games. It’s unlikely the Caps can catch Detroit’s ROWs in the final nine games, so they’ll need to earn more standings points. Plus, Columbus and Detroit both have one extra game left to play.

And yet, I’m kind of optimistic.

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