The San Jose Sharks came to DC on Tuesday night just two points above the playoff cut line in the Western Conference to face a Washington Capitals team that is sitting a comfortable 10 points in front of the ninth place squad in the East. Guess which team played harder, with more urgency, and found a way to win a contest that went scoreless until just past the midway point in period three? You guessed it, the Sharks, who won, 2-0, and outshot the Capitals, 36-25. The defeat drops the Caps record to 29-16-10 after the first of five straight games against the Western Conference.
Here are the highlights and analysis of this lackluster Capitals effort that comes after two nice victories:
– Every time I heard someone call the victory over the Penguins on Sunday a 60 minute effort I cringed a little. The Caps played great for 30 minutes but then for over 14 minutes in the middle portion of that game they failed to get a shot on net due to over passing and sloppiness. We saw a ton of that from the Capitals on Tuesday night against the Sharks and if not for some good goaltending by Michal Neuvirth (34 saves) for the first 50 minutes the game would not have been tied so late. Simply put, this Caps team has to quit trying to make the perfect play or the high risk drop or back pass at the blue line and either shoot the puck or dump it deep. They did that well in Tampa last Friday night but failed to do it very often on Tuesday.
– Neuvirth was really good until the Sharks first goal from Logan Couture with just 8:05 remaining. #39 took a puck on the left wing boards and went around an out of position John Carlson and before Karl Alzner could get over to help, Couture put one from a bad angle through the five hole on #30. Just over two minutes later Dan Boyle would pinch down from the left point and lose his man, Alexander Ovechkin, and score on a slapper from in tight. Game over.
– Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Jason Chimera were -2 on the night, as were Carlson and Alzner. Carlson had a particularly poor outing making numerous turnovers in the offensive zone and his positioning was not very good. He needs to stop drop passing or sending the puck backwards when he is leading the rush. Clearly the absence of defeneseman Mike Green, who was out due to a head injury, hurts the Caps and they really missed his offense. Alexander Semin returned for the first time since early January and he had some good shifts in the first period, including drawing a penalty in the slot, but as the game wore on he became less noticeable. I expect Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau to get Semin back up with Ovechkin and Backstrom for Saturday’s game against a very good defensive blue line from the Los Angeles Kings (see Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson).
– With Green and Tom Poti out of the lineup, we saw the return of the John Erskine and Tyler Sloan d-pair. Those two played close to 15 minutes together and while they didn’t give up a goal, they are not a duo that will help the Capitals generate offense and the team spent a good portion of those shifts in their own zone. Scott Hannan and Jeff Schultz were also paired up and neither one of those guys is going to get the defense of the other team on their heels when bringing the puck up the ice.
Notes: Hannan fell awkardly head first into the boards on his last shift in period two but he returned to play the entire final period…the Caps power play went 0 for 2 and desperately needs a heavy left handed shot from the point, but that is not on the roster right now…the Capitals got smoked on draws, 36-25, another indication that they chose to pretty much take the night off…Saturday’s tilt against the Kings is a 12:30 start at the Verizon Center and hopefully Washington won’t sleep walk through that one like they did on Tuesday night.