It was a rough week for the Washington Capitals who went 1-2 on their three opponents. The Caps suffered only their second regulation loss at home and saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end.
I’m going to do things a little differently for this week’s recapping by giving you the good and the bad.
That’s good! – No Fly Zone – After the 7-1 thrashing the Caps had taken from the Flyers in their last meeting the Caps played a much more solid game of hockey this time. It quickly became apparent that the Caps were stressing defense this time around. After three periods, and the overtime the shots on goal were 34 apiece, and the score was still locked at 1-all. It was Victor Kozlov that scored the only goal in the shootout that sent the hated Flyers home with an OTL.
That’s Bad – Love for Ovie – Alex Ovechkin had scored a goal in each of the previous nine home games prior to the Flyers game where he did not notch so much as an assist.
That’s Good! – The All-Star Nod – Alex Ovechkin was officially named to the Eastern Conference All Star team this week. It was more of a formality as most knew he was going to be in last week, even if he was snubbed from the starting line-up.
That’s Bad – 8 is not enough – Ovie was the only Capital to get an All-Star invite, even with the great play of Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green this season. It’s still amazing to me that the Canadiens get four players in the starting line-up while they are ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference, and the Caps are lucky to get the League MVP on the team while they are ranked second only to Boston.
That’s Good! – Record shatters Record for Best Record – The Caps 27-11-3 and 57 points qualify for the best first half of a season in Caps’ history.
That’s Bad – What’s worse than getting a tie for your birthday? – Getting a loss. The Caps got blanked 3-0 on the 54th anniversary of their bench boss’ birth when they faced Columbus at Verizon Center last week. I know you can’t get ties in the NHL anymore, but an OTL would have been better than a loss. Hopefully they do better when they play on my birthday on the 19th.
That’s Good! – Healthy Returns – The Caps saw the return of Thomas Fleischmann and Sergei Federov this past Friday. Fleischmann apparently had the flu, and Federov was listed as injured for so long that he probably forgot why he listed as injured in the first place. I know I did. Was it something to do with his ankle?
That’s Bad – Check that net for shrink wrap – The Caps may have been shut out versus Columbus but it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. Washington poured the shots on goal, and outshot Columbus 45-23. They had at least four shots ring off the post but nothing seemed to bounce the Caps way.
That’s Good! – The Capitals bounced back from their 3-0 loss by hanging four goals on their next opponent; The Montreal Canadiens.
That’s Bad – Unfortunately the Canadiens scored five. The Caps entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, but let the Canadiens score four goals in the third while only scoring two themselves. The game appeared to be headed to Overtime, but that chance slipped away with 00:21 seconds left in regulation.
That’s Good! – A pattern of Hope? – The Caps have been shut out three times this season. They have lost the next game after each shutout, but have gone on to win six of the next seven after that.
That’s Bad – Unfortunately the Caps face the Bruins (twice) and Redwings as three of their next seven opponents. Boston is currently ranked second in the league standings followed by the Detroit Redwings at third, and Capitals at fourth.
That’s Bad – Part Two – Who’s this friggin’ Guy? – The Caps only had to register a point to send their Coach Bruce Boudreau to the All-Star game as an assistant coach for the Eastern Conference. Montreal had to win to send their coach Guy (pronounced “Ghee”) Carbonneau. Bruce is going to watch the game at home with the rest of us; While Montreal gets yet another All-Star nod.
Funny how the All-Star game is being played in Montreal; The Montreal Canadiens already have four starters for the All-Star game even though they are the fourth place team in the conference. The game that decides which coach gets the nod is decided in Montreal. The Canadiens are given two 5-on-3 power-plays after the Caps get the go-ahead goal in the second period and convert for two goals to start the third period….
…I’m calling shenanigans!
The Wrap up – Even though the Caps lost their last two games, they really didn’t play all that bad. There were a few times where a guy might be out of position, and a couple of times where guys bumped into each other, but some of that is to be expected when you shuffle up the line combinations as the Caps did when they got Fleischmann and Federov back.
I’m not quite ready to hit the panic button just yet. Yes the Caps lost two in a row, but nobody wins them all. They are still in good shape and none of their rankings slid (they are still first in their division, second in their conference and fourth in the league). Their opponents did get to catch up on them a little though so they will need to get back on the winning track to keep their conference and league rankings in place. Otherwise, they are in no real danger in the Southeast as they still hold a 10-point lead there.
Coming up – The Caps start their week off tomorrow at Verizon Center when they welcome in the 21st ranked Edmonton Oilers. Immediately after that they head up to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to face a Penguins team that has lost eight of their last ten games. They finish their week on Saturday by welcoming the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins to Verizon Center.
Final Thought – The Capitals are one superstar goalie away from being the best team in the league. It’s hard to say anything bad about the work that Johnson and Theodore have been doing as of late, but I’m not ready to consider them “franchise goaltenders” just yet. My blood boils when I consider the burn left by Cristobal Huet as he spurned the Caps for Chicago. The thoughts of what could’ve been will really drive you crazy.
The fact that Johnson and Theodore are playing so “on the bubble” makes it difficult to say the Caps should bring Varlamov up from the AHL for good, because he is still technically an unknown. So unless Caps GM George McPhee has any other magic tricks up his sleeve that can pull in a guy like Steve Mason or Roberto Luongo, I don’t think the Caps are true cup contenders this year.
This doesn’t mean that they won’t be fun to watch in the meantime, and you never know when it comes to George McPhee, we’ve seen him pull rabbits out of hats before.