Caps Lose Third Straight Game

January 14, 2009 | Ed Frankovic

Well here are the positives after Tuesday night’s Caps 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at the Verizon Center:

The Carolina Hurricanes were blasted, 5-1, by the Ottawa Senators so the Caps maintained their 10 point division lead on the second place Carolina Hurricanes (Florida is 11 points back but has two games in hand).

Defensemen John Erskine returned to the lineup after missing 22 games due to a concussion playing a pretty physical and strong game.

Tomas Fleischmann had a highlight reel goal that stopped a close to 150 minute Caps goal scoring drought at home (their last home goal prior to that came two minutes and ten seconds into the win over the Flyers last Tuesday).

After that, there isn’t much else to say good about the game Tuesday other than the fact that I don’t think anyone else got hurt in the game.

Now for just some of the bad:

The Caps overall team puck support was probably the worst I’ve ever seen it this season. Edmonton seemed to outnumber the Caps all over the ice, even when shorthanded. This is uncharacteristic of a Washington team that typically has a lot of energy and has multiple players around the puck at all times.

Defensemen Milan Jurcina, who made a critical gaffe that helped cost the Caps the game in Montreal last Saturday, was a big reason why Edmonton raced to a 3-0 lead and he didn’t get much help from any of the forwards on the ice on those goals nor did he get the big save from goalie Jose Theodore when needed, who had a poor outing. Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice in the first 10 minutes the Caps had numerous scoring chances yet Oilers net minder Dwayne Roloson made big save after big save to stop the Caps, a pattern we’ve seen too often lately (see Anterro Niittymaki and Steve Mason).

The power play was atrocious, including nearly 40 seconds of a two man advantage in the first period, as guys just stood around on the perimeter waiting for something to happen. Somebody has to go to the net and do the dirty work but I didn’t really see any takers on Tuesday night. It is pretty sad when the smallish Michael Nylander went to the net harder than anyone else for Washington.

Defensemen Karl Alzner took his first penalty of the year on a delay of a game call that seemed questionable because the puck looked to me that it hit the boards before going out of play. The rookie also has to wonder what is going on with his defensive partner because #23 was a giveaway machine tonight and was out of position all evening. Jurcina has definitely regressed the last week or so and it seems to be impacting Alzner’s play. You can’t play sound defensive hockey when your partner is out of position most of the time.

Alexander Ovechkin is now goal less in his last four games and during that stretch he only has one assist. The Great #8 did have 7 shots on goal tonight and five others missed the net. I don’t know if it is just me or not but he seems to be breaking a lot of sticks lately, more than usual. Anyways, he could use a good game against Pittsburgh and his rival, Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, on Wednesday night at Mellon Arena.

As I wrote last night, there is no need to panic, especially because the season is so long and the Caps are in a very weak division and the weaker conference for that matter (the Caps are only 6-8 against the stronger Western Conference this season). However, they need to get back to playing solid hockey and can’t solely rely on their skill to win games, because as head coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game tonight, they won’t win that way.

We’ll see how the Caps do Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have been struggling lately but did knock off the Flyers, 4-2, in Philly on Tuesday so they figured something out. I did notice that Malkin and Sydney Crosby appeared to be playing together at times in Philadelphia. Also, center Jordan Staal, who recently signed a four year deal with the Pens that pays him $4M a season, had another very good game scoring his third goal in three games.

Programming Note: Tune into the Comcast Morning Show on WNST 1570 on Wednesday at 845am to hear Drew Forrester talk with either a player or someone in the Caps organization.