Questions Begin to Mount as Caps Lose to Bruins Again

October 21, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. The Washington Capitals outshot their opponents but lost to a hot goalie.

Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, who defeated the Caps on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center, did it again on Thursday in the Bruins home opener, stopping 38 of 39 shots en route to a 4-1 B’s triumph over an extremely inconsistent Capitals hockey team. The only goal by DC was from Jason Chimera, who tallied into an empty net after the Boston goalie misplayed the biscuit with just over 10 minutes left in the third period. With the loss Washington falls to 4-3 overall and after only seven contests some of the same issues from last spring’s playoffs are showing up in 2010-11.

So without further adieu, let’s get to the highlights, quotes and analysis from the Caps 2nd straight defeat to the Bruins in as many games:

– Thomas was good, but as was discussed on the Caps postgame show on Comcast, where were any Capitals to go to the net and screen the B’s goalie or fight for second chances? I did not see a whole lot of that and that is it what it takes to solve a goalie who is in a groove. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, perimeter hockey does not work and Boston used the same strategy the Canadiens employed last spring. They simply packed their defense in early on and made the Caps try and beat them with shots from the outside. When the Caps made a mistake, the Bruins would then counter attack and seek opportunities. The strategy is a bit of a risky one but when the opponent scores first, the Capitals tend to get lazy and play bad positional hockey that leads to penalties and more goals against. This is what happened on Thursday evening.

– Washington dominated the first 17 or so minutes and couldn’t score, primarily because noone fought for rebounds plus guys like Nicklas Backstrom, who had one of his worst games in a long time, missed glorious scoring chances. Then Matt Hendricks took a bad penalty in the offensive zone  with under two minutes left and when Jason Chimera got sucked to the side boards on the penalty kill, Patrice Bergeron slid a nice pass to Michael Ryder down low and he easily beat Semyon Varlamov (30 saves). That pass was able to be made because John Carlson was too high in the slot battling a Bruins forward, who was already tied up with John Erskine. Thus a 13-8 Caps first period shots advantage went for naught as the Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead.

– In the second period it was mostly Boston carrying the play as they had an 18-13 shots advantage and tallied twice to give them a 3-0 lead heading into period three. Speedy forward Jonathan Caron scored a huge goal to make it 2-0 after the Caps top line got caught on the ice too long and ran out of gas. Then midway through the period Alexander Semin took a hooking penalty and Nathan Horton blasted one through traffic, something that we aren’t seeing from the Caps power play, to make it 3-0 and pretty much end this game at 12:29 of the middle stanza.

“We got caught out there too long with Nicky’s line, they got one change in while the puck was in our zone, a great one by them, and we were too tired to move and they scored to make it 2-0. Then they scored on the power play to make it 3-0 and it’s pretty tough to come back on a team with a goalie playing like that when it is 3-0,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau on the turning point in the contest.

– As Boudreau said after the tilt, rookie Marcus Johansson was Washington’s best forward in the game. The young Swede sure can skate and his stick handling is pretty good too. MJ90 continues to get better and he is now playing 2nd line center between the very inconsistent Semin and a struggling Brooks Laich. He was a very respectable 5-4 on faceoffs on the road, where it is tougher to win draws. As for the rest of the centers on Washington, they were downright bad on Thursday. Backstrom couldn’t handle the puck all night and Tomas Fleischmann looks lost as a pivot. Even 4th line center Dave Steckel was a non factor and his stock continues to plummet. Center is still the area of biggest weakness on this Caps team and through seven games that is highly evident. How long does GM George McPhee stay with this crew of center ice men?

“Marcus was probably our best forward and I thought him and Chimera were really skating,” started the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner on #90 and #26 before adding, “[changing the lines] is something I’ve got to think about with guys not producing. Is it because they are not playing well or because they are snakebit? I think they can all play better, it is a combination of both,” finished Boudreau.

– One area where the Caps are not struggling is in net. Varlamov played solid and did all he could to keep his team in the game but he was left out to dry too often. Boston had several breakaways and quality chances but #1 stopped most of them. It was really only on the penalty kill where he was unable to keep his finger in the dyke as a shorthanded unit that was 25 for 25 coming into Thursday’s tilt gave up three tallies on just four chances. Add in the fact that the Capitals power play went 0 for 4 with superstar Mike Green out of the lineup and you get a special teams differential of -3. NHL teams rarely win games when on the bottom end of that stat.

“We had lots of chances to score, we just didn’t. Normally our special teams, through seven games our penalty killing has been great, but our power play, which kept us at the top last year, hasn’t come through for us, so we’ll have to work on that tomorrow,” said Boudreau.

Notes: The Caps next game is home against the Thrashers on Saturday night before they embark on a three game road trip…Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon were both scratched due to injury…Washington won the face-off battle, 29-27…Alexander Ovechkin was credited with eight shots and five hits in 25:53 of ice time but he was held pointless and went -1.

Special thanks to Ted Starkey (@TedStarkey) of The Washington Times for forwarding the post game quotes that were used in this blog.