Caps Lose Third Straight Game
So much for the excuse that guys were worried about the trade deadline as the reason for bad Caps hockey. One day after Washington Capitals GM George McPhee showed confidence in his current roster by not making any trades Coach Bruce Boudreau’s troops went out and played another stinker losing to the out of the playoff picture Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1, for the Caps third straight loss, all at the Verizon Center.
Some may say that the absence of Alexander Ovechkin, who missed the game with a bad foot, and the loss of Tom Poti due to a re-inured groin just seven seconds into the game caused this loss but I will hear none of it. Washington looked tired for the third straight game and even though they fired 38 shots on net I am having a hard time remembering many of them as being real quality chances or rebound tries. Nope, this bunch continues to pass up shots from the point with the potential for traffic in front and opt for one timers from bad angles in the lower corners. Can you say low percentage shots on opposing goalies? Washington made it very easy for new Leafs goalie Martine Gerber (37 saves), who was claimed off of waivers this week from Ottawa when Toronto #1 goalie Vesa Toskala had season ending surgery. Gerber had played the last two months in Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
This game was scoreless for two periods and was downright boring at times. Then in the third period when one would expect the Caps to take over the Leafs struck first when Lee Stempniak scored from below the goal line banking an awful goal between the pads of Caps goalie Jose Theodore, who had played a good game until that point. However, you can’t give up a tally like that and the Theodore detractors will have a field day with that bad goal. Some of the blame on that goal should go to the horrible play down low by John Erskine, Jeff Schultz, and Michael Nylander. Nylander, who was scratched the previous four games and has basically just collected a nice paycheck this season, stood and watched Stempniak as he skated towards the back of the net and fired it off Theodore and into the net. It would have been nice to see #92 challenge Stempniak and prevent the centering pass from even happening but once again Nylander floated lazily in his own zone.
The second goal, which pretty much finished the Caps, came from defenseman Pavel Kubina primarily because Erskine made a bad pass, then left his feet, and was basically doing a snow angel on the ice while John Mitchell took the puck behind the net and passed it to Kubina who was wide open in the slot and shot it quickly by Theodore. The Caps still did not wake up thereafter and with 7:28 left Boudreau lit into his bench with what looked like a profanity laced tired (and deservedly so) in an attempt to get his guys to work harder, stop making boneheaded plays, and get their cycling game going. But it didn’t work fast enough. Alexander Semin did score on a nice face off play from center Nicklas Backstrom with just 38:6 seconds left but it was too little, too late for the Caps who waited to the very end to show some life.
I can’t figure out what is going on and why the Caps look so slow and were routinely beaten to loose pucks against another bottom feeder (although the Leafs are 5-0-3 in their last eight games). I’m sure Boudreau will lose some sleep trying to figure it out the next three nights before Washington takes on the revived Pittsburgh Penguins this Sunday at 3pm at the Verizon Center. Here are some other tidbits and thoughts after tonight’s loss:
- The Leafs thought they scored in the first period but the referees conferred and correctly called Jason Blake for contact on Theodore wiping out a tap in goal. Kudos to the officials for waving the goal off but Blake should have been called for goaltender interference.
- Schultz and Erskine once again played poorly tonight and with Poti hurt, defenseman Karl Alzner will need to be recalled from Hershey to play on Sunday. Forward Sergei Fedorov played on defense tonight after Poti was injured further weakening the Caps offensive attack.
- The Caps fall to 40-21-5 but thanks to the Pens beating Florida tonight the Caps maintained their 11 point lead in the Southeast Division. As I wrote on Wednesday, I expect the Caps to finish third in the conference by winning the Southeast Division (and I also picked the Pens to finish fifth as they have shown lots of life since getting forward Chris Kunitz).
- Eric Fehr said on Comcast after the contest that he thought the team played a great game tonight and had lots of chances. If he went back and watched the film of this one I think he’d change his mind. Washington’s forwards routinely do NOT go to the net for the type of grinding and hard working goals a team needs, especially when the NHL’s leading goal scorer is out of the lineup. Hopefully Ovechkin will be back on Sunday for Pittsburgh and his good friend and supporter Sydney Crosby.
So I exchanged several text messages with an NHL scout on Thursday afternoon to get his take on the trade deadline yesterday. I asked him who the winner of the day was and he not surprisingly said the Calgary Flames. Calgary acquired forward Olli Jokinen and defenseman Jordon Leopold yesterday and went out and buried the Flyers in Philadelphia tonight, 5-1.
As for the losers, the scout said the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers fit that bill on deadline day. The scout thought the Rangers gave up far too much for defenseman Derrick Morris and he said the Oilers acquisition of Ales Kotalik and Patrick O’Sullivan gave them “just more of the small soft skilled players they like.”
I asked him what he thought Anaheim was doing and he replied “not sure, but they have four solid defensemen now.” Anaheim, after yesterday’s trades, has Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, and James Wisniewski on defense.
When I relayed to him that another NHL scout told me that he thought the Red Wings weren’t going to win the Cup this year because they were playing “spot hockey” and not showing up every night all he could say was “first place in the West with six weeks until the playoffs.”