Michal Neuvirth was stellar in net on Friday night as the Capitals rallied from a 2-0 third period deficit to force overtime before losing to the New Jersey Devils, 3-2.
Sure it was nice to finally get a point, and the Capitals were the last team in the league to do so, but this team needs wins in a short 48 game season.
Washington is now 0-3-1 and you can criticize the bad penalty killing and complain about a system change due to the new coach, but to me the single biggest problem with this team is the terrible play of Alexander Ovechkin.
In 92:29 of ice time in the four games he has 0 goals, 1 assist, 13 shots on goal, and just 8 hits. At $9M a year, that production just doesn’t cut it.
Ovechkin continues to struggle on the point on the power play and he is not getting his shots through and on net. With all of the power play time Washington had on Friday, if the team captain is producing there then maybe the Caps win in regulation or don’t need Mike Green’s late game tying tally?
I’ve written this several times before but Ovechkin would be a better fit down low on the power play. His size and strength would force opponents to focus more on him and that would open things up for his teammates. Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter both did that, at times, but it didn’t seem to last long, for whatever reason. However, there were several times when that move was very effective.
Much was made of Hunter sitting Ovechkin in the post season last spring due to his defensive deficiencies. Those problems continue this year. Oates tried him on the PK but after he was caught standing like a statue on the second Winnipeg goal on Tuesday night, that experiment seems to have ended.
Alex can be very guilty of trying to do things on his own too much and not use his teammates effectively. His turnover in overtime that led to the winning goal on Friday was an example of that. In addition, after turning the puck over Ovechkin was late coming back on defense. As a result he over reacted to the play and got caught down low, which opened up the Washington defense for an easy goal. Oates will not like what he sees of #8 on the sequence that led to the Devils winning tally.
I am not sure what is going on with a guy who should be one of, if not the best player in the NHL? Given that he played in the KHL during the lockout, you can’t blame his poor play on a lack of conditioning.
Whatever the problem is, it is up to Oates to figure it out and stop Ovechkin from performing so poorly. Like a quarterback in football, it is tough to win when your top player is not scoring and Ovechkin still has a big donut hole on the stat sheet in the goals column.
The bottom line is the Caps can’t win consistently without Ovechkin playing well and until they get him untracked, this team will have trouble winning games.
So fair or not, he deserves much of the blame for Washington’s terrible start to this season.