The PreGame: On Wednesday night, we saw flashes of brilliance. Perhaps our squad has turned the corner. We finally figured out the PP. And yet, for the past four weeks, we’ve seen things we haven’t wanted to see. Ugly things. Things we’ve flinched from; things we’ve shielded our juvenile eyes away from. Things a pure heart shouldn’t see: the last gasping moments of the Boudreau era. We think it’s time to banish what was… for what is now.
[Call the Spirits! North, South… East and West…Harken to me now! Hear us!]
Bruce – Juggles – is passed. And now, like a veil lifted from our eyes, we see again our gallant Capitals squad. God Save the King! We will love you always Coach, but you are now past us. Be well, and fear the Caps.
Photo credit: Rob Carr
Warning: You’re about to read statistics from someone who can’t keep score at Scrabble.
The Washington Capitals started their season with a 7-game winning streak. They were the talk of the league, a team made of smiles and wins.
They would go on to lose 12 of their next 18 games, their head coach, and their confidence. As of game 25, the Capitals are in a three-way tie for 8th in the Eastern Conference. For perspective, the players on the 9th place team usually get started on their suntans a little earlier than everyone else.
This article takes a look at the numbers behind the Caps season to date to try and give its schizophrenia some context. I’ll look at shots on goal, save percentage, puck possession, power play, and penalty kill.
Because with all of the opinions about why the Caps have fell so far (many I’ve posited myself), I owe you guys some objective assessment without the usual bluster or pageantry.
Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill
You couldn’t write a better script. After 24 games under head coach Randy Carlyle, Andrew Gordon had not scored a goal and the Ducks were among the worst teams in the NHL. Enter Bruce Boudreau. In the second period of Gabby’s coaching debut with the Ducks, Gordo netted his second career NHL goal — his first since December 21, 2010, which he celebrated by kissing Marcus Johansson — knocking in a rebound off of a Ben Maxwell shot past Ilya Bryzgalov. As NHL.com’s Dave Lozo observed, Gordon is probably the first player in NHL history to get his first career goals on two different teams with the same coach.
If you follow me past the jump, you can check out video of his goal.
(Photo credit: Nick Wass)
The Dale Hunter era hasn’t exactly started with a bang. With Hunter looking for his first NHL win behind the bench and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby playing Washington for the first time since his Winter Classic concussion heard ’round the world, everybody from TSN to The New York Times descended on the Verizon Center Thursday night. And for the second game in a row the Caps were easily outplayed and doubled up in shots on goal (65 to 36 over the two games) — even if they lost by just one tally.
Still, the Caps aren’t exactly playing like Bruce Boudreau remains behind the bench. The team has instituted Hunter’s new defensive system (they had the second worst goal-against average in the league under the old regime) which will take some getting used to. The players, of course, know this as they made an even more dramatic shift in their play in the midst of their eight-game losing streak less than one year ago. So far, though, it’s yet to yield a victory.
Zack Kassian beats Tomas Vokoun. (Photo credit: Dave Sandford)
The Washington Capitals hopped on up to Buffalo, intending to shake off last night’s bad beat by whipping the Sabres. The injury-wracked Buffalo team missed a big chunk of its lineup, but they did not miss many scoring chances. And the Caps were just plain awful.
Luke Adam caught an easy bounce after Dennis Wideman’s failed clearing attempt. Jason Pominville scored his ninth of the year when Tomas Vokoun couldn’t find the puck. Jason Chimera drew a penalty shot and fired it so hard it disintegrated in the net. The very next shift– just half a minute later, toddler Zack Kassian recorded his first NHL goal– making it 3-1. Luke Adam opened the third period with a mean snapshot. Jochen Hecht beat Mathieu Perreault to record a shorthanded goal and finalize it. Sabres beat Caps 5-1.
Chimmer with the game-winner. Now, let’s go eat a Turkey dinner. (Photo credit: Evan Vucci)
Two nights ago, Alex Semin was banished to the press box, a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie year.
Five minutes and twenty-three seconds into the first period, redemption was his. Sasha Minor took Alex Ovechkin’s wizardly backhand feed and fired a rocket past Ondrej Pavelec on the 2-on-1 to open the scoring. The mustachioed Andrew Ladd got one back for the Jets, however, when he and Nik Antropov worked their on 2-on-1 magic. But, before I could even finish swearing — 12 seconds later in other words — Brooks Laich set up Jason Chimera at the top of the crease to once again give the home team the lead. Keeping with the back-and-forthiness, Kyle Wellwood tied the game up for Winnipeg again just three minutes later. Birthday boy Nicky Backstrom, though, didn’t let that stand when early in the second frame he whacked one five-hole on Pavelec to give the Caps a 3-2 lead. But the Jets didn’t run out of fuel there when, with eight minutes left in the third, Bryan Little wristed one past Tomas Vokoun to tie it for the gazillionth time. To overtime we went, and that’s where Chimmer shined once again — with an awesome celebration to boot. Ballgame. Caps beat Jets, 4-3.
Haven’t seen many of these lately. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Lauri Korpikoski picked up the puck at center-ice after being awarded a penalty shot and skated in on Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun. With a quick flick of the wrist the puck was in the back of the net, and the Caps down 2-0. Bruce Boudreau — possibly fighting for his coaching life — turned his back is disgust and slammed into the plexiglass to his left with fervor. It was a new low this year for the Caps, who were coming off a horrendous 7-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night and in the mist of the skid that saw them lose six of seven and four straight. But after hitting rock bottom, the Caps finally got back up — with a lot of luck and maybe a little help from a certain red balloon.
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