Seven and counting. That is how many games in a row the Capitals have lost in overtime or the shootout this season after a 2-1 defeat to the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on Monday night. Matt Hendricks scored the lone Caps goal early in the second period off of a gorgeous pass from rookie Marcus Johansson but then the Blueshirts tied it on a fluky goal that hit the arm of forward Marian Gaborik and then Caps d-man Karl Alzner’s stick before going into the cage with 6:41 left in regulation. At that point the Caps were being outshot 28-17, but they would take 10 of the next 11 shots before the game went to the gimmick. In the shootout, the Rangers took advantage of an “overly aggressive” Braden Holtby, scoring on 3 of 4 attempts while Washington went 2-4. The Caps record now stands at 27-14-9 and the missed points in the extra sessions are the big reason they now trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by two points in the Southeast Division race.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from a tightchecking game that didn’t have too many scoring opportunities:
– With the Caps missing Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr up front while the Rangers were without top forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, this game turned into a John Tortorella special, a hard working, grind it out type of affair. Each team had stretches where they controlled the puck for long periods of time in the others zone but the Capitals were on the short end of the shots on goal board because they often overpassed looking for the perfect play. The Rangers forecheck, at times, was also relentless and early on Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau made a tactical adjustment on Washington’s breakout with Tortorella’s crew clogging all zone exits on the boards.
“Patience from our D and then hitting the middle. I think our D did a great job once we changed the game plan a little bit. Me and [Johansson], and [Hendricks] had a couple of 3 on 2’s and [Hendricks] almost scored their in the third on that one shot. Their D came down the boards hard so it was either a chip from the winger or else hit the center. They played a tough game,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle on the changes Boudreau made almost right away in the opening stanza to combat the New York forecheck.
– Holtby only surrendered one goal for the third straight game but this time he did not get a victory because the Capitals continue to struggle to score. Problem number one was a lack of shots and compounding that was the fact that the Caps had two power plays for a total of four minutes and they had exactly ONE shot on goal. That is totally unacceptable. At this point, Boudreau likely needs to just put out the grinders and a set of different defensemen to see what they can do to get this unit going. On the first attempt, it looked like the Caps might finally break through as Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green were up top on the umbrealla on the first unit, while Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich played screen men in front of Rangers goalie Martin Biron. That setup was good except for one thing: the point men were reluctant to fire away! Boudreau attributed the Caps lack of offense to the inability of the power play to score.
“We scored 90 some goals on the power play last year, that is one a game, we are in our 20’s still at 50 games, so that one goal a game, it constitutes the difference between people saying we are not an offensive team to an offensive team. A goal a game it goes from 2.80 to 3.80 which is what we had last year and was the best in the league. So when you are not scoring on the power play things are not working,” said Boudreau on the primary reason the offense is down this season.
– While Ovechkin isn’t doing a good job at all on the power play, the rest of his game continues to be on the rise. The Great #8 was all over the ice and his stick handling and moves were much more effective in this contest. Ovie had six shots on net, two hits, and three takeaways in 24:08 of ice time and I thought he was the best player on the ice. Ovechkin’s center, Nicklas Backstrom, had a strong game as well (13-7 on faceoffs, 2 shots in 23:55) but winger Jason Chimera did not have the same success he had with #’s 8 and 19 in the last two tilts. #25 seemed to fight the puck all evening struggling to retrieve passes and thus slowing down the rush.
– After that, there wasn’t much to this game, other than a lot of work on the wall by both clubs. The line of Mathieu Perreault, Brooks Laich, and Mike Knuble seemed to struggle but the Johansson (1 assist, +1), Matt Hendricks (1 goal and a great shootout tally), and Jay Beagle (+1) line was arguably Washington’s best three man crew. Johansson, in particular, had a really solid outing in 16:41 of ice time and his overtime play was much improved versus the defensive mistakes he made in the OT loss to the Flyers last Tuesday night.
Notes: Washington won the faceoff battle, 32-24…the Caps killed off both Ranger power plays allowing a total of four shots…Scott Hannan had the second assist on the Hendricks goal, his first point as a Capital…next up for the Caps are the Atlanta Thrashers in Hotlanta on Wednesday night. It is the last game before the All Star Break. I would expect Semyon Varlamov to get the start in goal, if he is healthy, because he is the Caps goalie who has had the most success in Phillips Arena.