Caps Lose to Hurricanes, 5-2
In what is becoming a disturbing trend the Washington Capitals did not show up again this evening at the Verizon Center and were run out of their own building in the second period giving up four goals en route to a 5-2 loss at the hands of a desperate Carolina Hurricanes hockey team. Carolina used a penalty shot goal from Eric Staal in the last minute of the first period to get the lead and then they jumped to a 3-0 advantage early in the second scoring two shorthanded goals that I put squarely on the backs of Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green, who had absolutely terrible games tonight.
On the first shorthanded goal Ovechkin made a bad decision at the Hurricanes blue line on a puck that he had less than a 25% chance of getting – even with his incredible skill – leading to a two on one with Green back. Green then proceeded to play defense about as effectively as an orange cone and Matt Cullen skated across the slot and fired a hard, low shot past rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth, who was playing because #1 net minder Jose Theodore has the flu. Then just less than four minutes later on another Caps power play Washington turned the puck over in their own zone and Green, Ovechkin, and Nicklas Backstrom failed to pick up anyone as Patrick Eaves scored off a Matt Cullen pass to make it 3-0 and suck any life left from Washington.
After that the Caps looked disinterested and when Eaves added a power play goal with less than two minutes left in the second perioid to make it 5-0 this one was totally done except for some padding of the stats on the Caps last two goals. Afterwards Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau had a hard time determining the reason for the poor play, although he did allude to Wednesday’s 3pm trade deadline which definitely can get in the heads of players.
“It wasn’t leadership that lost the game. We’re going through this funk right now that I think every team… goes through. We’ve lost games before. It looked [like] there’s a complete lack of energy on the bench. I wish I could put my finger on it right now. I don’t know if it’s because of tomorrow and people are worried when they hear rumors,” said Boudreau.
Curiously defensemen Tom Poti was pulled from the game in warm-ups but according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post the Caps are saying that #3 tweaked a groin that has plagued him much of this season. I guess we’ll know for sure that is the case if the 3pm trade deadline rolls around and Poti is still here.
As for the defense that played tonight, well they weren’t good again turning in another subpar performance. Shaone Morrisonn was out of position and his slow skating forced him to take down Staal which led to his penalty shot goal. Green floated all night playing one of his worst games all year and Jeff Schultz continued to skate like he had his feet in cinder blocks routinely getting beat to the puck. This performance clearly backs up my blog post from last night which calls for GM George McPhee to upgrade the defense. There are rumors surrounding Phoenix defenseman Derrick Morris and him possibly coming to the Caps but I still prefer the big move, Chris Pronger from Anaheim, although McPhee told Tarik and the media today that he doesn’t see a big trade coming (but George does have a very good poker face!).
As for Neuvirth, well he did not have a strong game and the other consistent stance I’ve been making is this team needs a veteran backup goalie should Theodore get hurt. Tonight is proof that they need definitely need one. I think Neuvirth has a bright future but the AHL playoffs seem like a better learning and proving ground at this stage of his career.
About the only player I thought had a good game for Washington was Alexander Semin (1 goal, 1 assist), who loves playing the Hurricanes, and Boudreau singled him out.
“I thought [Alexander] Semin played very well tonight, but I thought the rest of the group that is our group core weren’t very good,” finished Boudreau.
I like the way Semin is playing right now and I hope he keeps it up for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.
As for the Caps players, Brooks Laich probably summed up this game best.
“The other teams that we’re playing are still NHL teams that are fighting for their lives. You look at Florida and you look at Carolina, they’re two teams that are on the bubble trying to get into the playoffs; and we were there last year. We know how desperate you can be when you’re in that situation. There are no excuses in here; we have to look at each other. I’m not blaming anyone else on the team; I took two bad penalties tonight. I didn’t do my job. I have to blame myself and then just make sure that tomorrow I’m better, and then be prepared for Thursday’s game,” said Laich.
Well said #21. Now hopefully we get some changes tomorrow and we start seeing some passion again from Washington on Thursday against Toronto. As things stand now the Caps are in third place in the Eastern Conference and the way the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing (won again tonight, 3-1, in Tampa) they very well could be the 6th seed in the East (or higher). If I’m the Caps I don’t want to see Evgeni Malkin, Sydney Crosby, and newly acquired spark plug Chris Kunitz in the first round.
Notes:According to Al Koken of Comcast, GM George McPhee was not in the Verizon Center on Tuesday night and was out in the war room at Kettler Ice Plex (Caps practice site) working the phones for trades. Green was -3 on the game and Ovechkin was -2. The Caps did not sell out (just missing at 17,903) for the first time in 12 games. Washington was held scoreless in the first period for the first time in 17 games.
Florida beat Atlanta tonight and now trail the Caps by 11 points in the Southeast Division with a game in hand. They are currently in 6th place in the East but are only three points ahead of the 9th place Canes. I see star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester NOT being moved on trade deadline day as Florida desperately needs to make the playoffs to try and save a franchise that is in financial trouble.
Minnesota Wild GM Doug Risebrough, who re-signed goalie Niklas Backstrom to a four year $24M contract today, was a guest on Hockey Night in Canada Radio this afternoon with Jeff Marek and he commented that today was much quieter on the trade front than any of the last few years (this came at 525pm Eastern time). Risebrough thinks that there will be less trade activity tomorrow due to many teams having salary cap issues plus the impending uncertaintly concerning the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement and the troubled economy’s effect on the cap total for each team for the 2010-11 NHL season (the salary cap will likely be the same as this year in 2009-10 but it is likely to drop the following year).
Defensemen Tomas Kaberle re-injured his hand tonight in the Devils-Leafs game likely ending his chance of being moved at tomorrow’s deadline.
In a no surprise move, pesky Sean Avery was claimed by the New York Rangers and will make his return to the Blueshirts on Thursday against the Islanders.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: I’ll be on the air with Nestor Aparacio sometime after the trade deadline passes on Wednesday to provide some analysis (likely somewhere between 330pm and 430pm).