Caps Need Changes After Gift Wrapped Loss to Devils

December 21, 2013 | Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals were in a holiday giving mood on Saturday night. The Caps had a 3-1 lead heading into the third period and a 4-2 lead after Alexander Ovechkin’s 30th goal of the season with 11 minutes left but were unable to close the game out.

The Devils Andy Greene scored on a rebound early into overtime to complete the comeback for New Jersey as they went on to win 5-4.

It was a bad defeat for the Capitals and they fall to 19-13-4 (42 points) this season.

What bugs me the most about this loss isn’t the third period collapse, no this is a trend that has been building for most of the season. The Capitals are not a good puck possession team and it starts with the problems they have in their own zone with bad coverage and turnovers. They struggle to complete passes coming out of their end and the players look lost on their reads on whether to pass the puck forward or to skate it out.

86-42 and 72-37.

You know what those numbers represent? The attempted shot totals for the last two games, which were heavily one sided against Washington. This is very alarming and the fancy stats community can easily produce the data to show that the Capitals are not a strong puck possession team. They’ve given up over 30 shots on net a game far too often and if not for some timely goaltending from their net minders plus several shootout victories, they don’t have 19 wins. They simply are leaving their goalies out to dry with poor defensive play for long periods of games.

It is a minor miracle that the Capitals gained three standings points going 1-0-1 with those lopsided shot attempt totals. But that won’t continue when you play so badly in long stretches. For me the questions have to start being asked by GM George McPhee and head coach Adam Oates about whether it is the system or the players. Oates said after Friday night’s win that the numerous Canes scoring chances were primarily due to bad reads by his players. We are now 36 games into the season, shouldn’t these guys know what the coaching staff wants them to do and be able to execute it?

Bottom line is this is either a system issue or they don’t have the right players to execute it.

36 games is a large enough sample size to evaluate your team.

My evaluation, at this point, is the Capitals have a middle of the pack team that has enough talent to qualify for the post season but doesn’t look to advance past the first round or second round the way they’ve shown to be deficient in their own end.

You aren’t going to win a Stanley Cup or even contend for one playing that way.

It’s up to McPhee and Oates to figure it out and fix it.

Either modify the system to fit the players or make some trades to find players who can execute what the coaching staff desires.

Notes: Braden Holtby took the loss giving up five goals on 37 shots. His biggest mistake was the 4th goal when he had miscommunication with his defensemen and turned the puck over up the boards…the Devils were 2 for 2 on the power play while the Caps went 0 for 1…next up for the Caps are the Anaheim Ducks, coached by Bruce Boudreau, on Monday at the Verizon Center. Bruce’s squad has won 8 games in a row.