Bad Opening Period Costs Caps 8th Straight Loss

December 19, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals came within one of setting a club record for shots on goal in a period (26) on Saturday night in Boston, and still lost. Thanks to a terrible opening first stanza in Beantown, one in which the Bruins scored three goals on 11 shots, a furious Caps rally came up one goal short and the result was Washington’s eighth straight defeat. Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference, and Blake Wheeler all tallied for Boston while Matt Bradley and Karl Alzner lit the lamp for DC in a tough 3-2 defeat. The Caps now drop to 18-12-4 and have given up the Southeast Division lead to the Atlanta Thrashers, who thrashed the New Jersey Devils, 7-1, this evening. Atlanta now has 41 points and Washington is one back, but they are also tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who also have a game in hand on both teams. So technically, the Caps are in third place in the Southeast Division and reside in 7th place in the Eastern Conference.

Here are the highlights and analysis from another close Capitals loss:

– I don’t know what was said by either the coaches or the players before the Caps came out for period one, but whatever it was it should never be used again. Washington played scared and tight in that opening stanza and just about every Capital was making mistakes, primarily because they were trying too hard and over thinking. Time after time there were one or two Capitals in position to make a play and they couldn’t come up with it. It was simply bad hockey and it cost Washington the game. I will label that opening 20 minutes the “Diamond Period” because to borrow a phrase from Ferris Bueller, the way the Caps played in that frame, had you stuck a lump of coal up the rear of each Capital, by week’s end that is what you’d have from each of them, a diamond! You simply cannot win playing hockey if you are afraid to make mistakes!

– Okay, now that the rant is over, this entire game turned after Michal Neuvirth (18 saves on 21 shots) stopped Tyler Seguin on a breakaway when it was 3-0 early in the second period. If #19 scores it is game over but the Caps went down the other end and it was the line of Dave Steckel, Matt Hendricks, and Bradley that put Washington on the board and back in the game. All three players in the offensive zone did their jobs and #10 found a nice seam in the right wing circle and put one inside the far post by Tim Thomas (39 saves) at 2:18 of period two.

– In the third period the ice was totally tilted with the Capitals rushing the puck into the Bruins zone over and over, but Thomas stood strong. Alzner finally got one by the current front runner for “NHL Comeback Player of the Year” when his blast hit a Boston d-man in front while he was jockeying with Nicklas Backstrom. That tally came with 5:28 remaining and Washington kept pouring it on, but when #30 stopped Alexander Ovechkin on a backhander with 10 seconds left the storybook comeback was thwarted and the losing streak continues on.

– The most baffling thing to me right now is why Ovechkin can’t score a big goal when the Caps need one??!! I thought for sure the Great #8 would tally with the Capitals throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Thomas, but despite seven shots on net and six hits, he could only muster a single assist on Alzner’s goal.

– I think it is no coincidence that since Jeff Schultz fractured his right thumb in the second period of the Maple Leafs game (third loss of this current streak) the play of the team has declined. Mike Green has been paired with just about everyone on the Caps roster and he has struggled (he’s also missed two games with a sprained MCL). #52 was on the ice for all three Bruins tallies, the first while paired with John Erskine and the last two with Scott Hannan, who has been absolutely awful since coming over in the trade for Tomas Fleischmann from Colorado. #23 is now -9 in his eight games with the Caps but to be fair to him, injuries to #55 and some of the others have put him in a difficult role while learning a new system. Green was -2 and misplayed the two on two that resulted in Bergeron’s early goal, but Neuvirth needed to make that save as well. On the third Bruins goal, the two time Norris Trophy finalist was outworked behind the Caps net but had Backstrom stuck with Wheeler in the slot that goal does not happen.

– So on to Ottawa the Caps go on Sunday night for the second half of back to back tilts (faceoff is at 730 pm). The question now is what Capitals team shows up? Is it the one that played the last 40 minutes tonight or is it the one that got bombed in New York last Sunday night? If it is the latter, I would have to think that some changes will be seriously considered, if not made.

Notes: Bradley fought tough guy Adam McQuaid at the 8:17 mark of the opening period, right after Boston had made it 2-0…the Caps were without injured forwards Alexander Semin and Boyd Gordon while Mathieu Perreault was a late scratch due to the flu…Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau juggled his lines in period three and Andrew Gordon saw one shift with Backstrom and Ovechkin before Eric Fehr, who was supposed to be the healthy scratch, was put up there. #16 did a decent job on that unit…the Caps won the faceoff battle, 31-25, with #19 going 14-8 while Marcus Johansson lost six of seven draws.