For the first time in the Bruce Boudreau era the Washington Capitals have a five game losing streak as the Caps flu ridden team dropped a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche at the Verizon Center on Saturday night. Once again the opposing goalie was the story as Craig Anderson stopped 40 shots and the Avs net minder was very fortunate to escape with a victory as the Capitals misfired on several good chances. Washington completes a four game home stand at 0-3-1 and their overall record falls to 18-10-3.
Here are the highlights and analysis from a good effort by the Caps that didn’t get the desired result:
– The Caps worked hard and arguably deserved to win but there are three plays that cost them a victory and they were all bad ones by Washington. First, Michal Neuvirth gave up an awful bad angle goal to Kevin Shattenkirk less than three minutes into this tilt. Second, Tom Poti is horribly out of position on an Avalance rush and Ryan Wilson comes down the slot all alone on #30 and beats him. Finally, with the score 2-1 Colorado, Alexander Semin, after taking two whacks to the midsection from John-Michael Liles, responded with a dirty and cheap shot cross check to the neck/back of the head of #4 and was whistled for a five minute major and a game misconduct. Argue all you want against that call and you will be wrong on that one, it was a stupid and selfish retaliation penalty. The Avalanche would score once on the long power play and that goal was the final difference.
– Alexander Ovechkin (1 assist, 5 hits, +1) was a force in this one and he, along with Matt Hendricks (1 goal and 4 hits), set the tone for Washington with their physical presence and determination. For many Capitals this was their best tilt of the disastrous home stand and their head coach certainly recognized it.
“That looked more like our team tonight…it is on the upswing, not on the downswing. If we have an effort like that tomorrow we might get rewarded for it,” started Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau, “You could tell the difference with Alex, he was skating, he was moving and he was hitting. I thought he did a good job that way,” finished the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner on his team captain’s strong effort against Colorado.
– Clearly the team missed the services of defenseman Mike Green, who is out with the flu, and it was rather apparent that Nicklas Backstrom is still struggling healthwise too. #19 was a terrible 4-15 on face-offs and he was uncharacteristically taken off the puck behind the net on several occassions, something that is a rarity. Boudreau was quick to give his #1 center a pass despite the lack of production.
“Backstrom could be better, he tried, but he’s coming right out of the sick bed,” finished Boudreau.
– Despite the fifth straight defeat there is no need to panic right now. Those calling for drastic measures should calm down. It is December and the Caps are banged up and not healthy at all at this point in time. Once this flu bug goes away, we’ll get a better idea of where the Caps are when they take on the Penguins twice in nine days between December 23rd and January 1st. If Washington doesn’t fair well in those tilts, then we can start talking changes, but I don’t expect the Caps to get beaten by a Pittsburgh club that might be peaking too early.
Notes: Next up for the Caps are the New York Rangers on Sunday at 7pm from Madison Square Garden and you can bet the farm that Semyon Varlamov will be in goal for Washington…I expect Semin to get at least a fine and perhaps a suspension for his dirty hit. There is no excuse for his actions on that play…Washington was outdueled, 36-31, from the face-off dot due to Backstrom’s struggles, which stem from his lack of strength due to the flu (perhaps someone else should have taken some of those draws?)…team guy Matt Bradley fought heavyweight Cody McLeod after #55 raced a good distance and hit him on the boards (no call from the zebras though for charging). #10, after being scratched against the Panthers, was -2 but that was the fault of Neuvirth and Poti…Marcus Johansson was scratched and his play has tailed off again, but he is a rookie…Mike Knuble had a goal and an assist and could have had more points since Ovechkin was a wrecking ball and constantly fed the puck into the crease area…that is it for tonight, sorry for the short blog, I have the flu too (was in Caps locker room following Thursday’s tilt).