Caps Home Unbeaten Streak Halted at 10 Games
They say all streaks must come to an end and Tuesday night at the Verizon Center the Caps ten game home unbeaten streak (9-0-1) came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Florida Panthers, 5-3. This was also the first time that Panthers goalie Craig Anderson has defeated the Washington Capitals in four tries. The red hot Panthers are now 3-0-2 in their last five games and pulled within six points of the first place Caps.
A big reason for their strong recent play is the solid defensive group they have and Florida Head Coach Peter DeBoer is fairly pleased with what he has on the backline.
“They are definitely the key to our team and I thought [Jay] Bouwmeester was outstanding tonight. He was on the ice for almost 30 minutes and every time [Alexander] Ovechkin was on we tried to get him on. One through six we’ve got some depth there and I think it was kind of offense against defense tonight with what Washington was throwing at us and what we had in the lineup so I’m glad we won,” said DeBoer.
This game was not on television tonight and it was not pleasant to watch in person either as Florida totally outworked the Caps after Washington took a 1-0 lead on a Nicklas Backstrom power play goal in the first period. There seemed to be a lack of energy in the building in the first period and the Caps would have little to no energy in the second period and most of the third period before a late rally brought a 4-1 Caps deficit to 4-3 with just less than three minutes left in the game. Florida, however, would score into an empty net with one minute left to prevent a miracle Caps comeback.
Afterwards Washington Coach Bruce Boudreau was very frank and direct in his comments about the game and he was obviously not happy.
“The start we didn’t play very well but we held them to two shots until the last minute [Panthers forward Radek Dvorak would add two late first period shots] so I thought 1-0, we talk to the guys and tell them that we weren’t on top of our game, the crowd was a little quiet tonight and they were trying to put us to sleep so I said to watch out this period because they are a great transition team because they can skate and they did because they got three quick ones by us and next thing you know we are looking up and having a devil of a time handling the puck, shooting the puck, and we weren’t doing anything right,” said Caps Bruce Boudreau on a second period that was all Florida as they tallied three times and had a 9-6 shots advantage.
The second Panthers goal was a bit of a fluke as Caps forward Dave Steckel tried to go cross ice in his own zone while shorthanded and put the puck off of Caps defensemen Karl Alzner’s skate and through the pads of Jose Theodore. Any life and energy the Caps had to that point, and it was not much, faded and Florida took over from there.
“Tonight was the least energy we’ve had all year and we talked about having energy tonight because their team was coming off a big win in New York and they’d be ready to play us and I don’t know what it was, I have no idea,” added Boudreau on the Caps lack of energy.
“Steckel, I didn’t think it was a very good play or attempt, he should have went behind the net with it and it would have been much easier but it didn’t happen,” added Boudreau on the own goal that gave Florida the lead.
For the Caps they had only 26 shots on net and most of them came late in a 12 shot third period.
“We’d like to see more shots and when you have that low of a total it means you aren’t paying the price to go to the net. You are not going to score pretty goals all night long. In the third period [Tomas Fleischmann] goes to the net and it caroms off someone and he scores. That is how goals are scored,” said Boudreau on some of the offensive problems of his team. By the way, two of the three goals the Caps scored were on the power play so that was one of the few positives on the evening.
Caps goalie Jose Theodore started strong but faded and Boudreau did not give the goalie a pass on the night despite poor play in front of him.
“I thought the first goal was getable. I thought he was like the rest of the team and the problem is when he is like the rest of the team he stands out like a sore thumb but he probably wasn’t worse than any of our players but because he is the last line of defense everybody sees it,” added Boudreau on Theodore’s play.
Defensively the Caps are playing with four guys who started the season with Hershey but Boudreau could not put the blame on them for the loss.
“I definitely think we had some breakdowns on the blue line. I don’t know, we talk about inexperience at this level but it was the common sense plays they’ve been making since they were 13 that were bad and it wasn’t just the inexperienced guys [Alzner, Bryan Helmer, Sami Lepisto, and Tyler Sloan] who were making them. I recall quite vividly the two guys [Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina] who have been here a long time making just as many mistakes,” said Boudreau on his defensive corps. As I mentioned in my live blog on Saturday night, clearly Morrisonn is struggling and Jurcina has played poorly since a very good game last Wednesday against Atlanta. Jurcina has a strong shot but he fires at the wrong time in a lot of cases so many of his shots are getting blocked creating transition opportunities for the opposition.
Everyone knows the Caps are banged up and missing some very key players in defensemen Mike Green and Tom Poti and forwards Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov but Boudreau wasn’t going to chalk the loss up to that.
“I don’t want to make excuses on injuries. Guys have got to step up when other guys go down and say this is great for me, this is my chance,” said Boudreau on the depleted Caps lineup.
As for the second late game failed comeback in eight nights (the Caps rallied late in Minnesota last Monday night) Boudreau was not seeing it as a positive.
“It is too little too late. Anyone can make it close and play hard for seven minutes and say well we’re close but it wasn’t a close game and they were dominating us to the point where you are undefeated at home and you are getting booed which was probably rightfully deserved at one point in the third period. It was very visible to the people upstairs, to me, and to the coaching staff that they were just plain outworking us and that is unacceptable,” said Boudreau.
“We didn’t play very good, we didn’t play with a lot of life and everybody is accountable. What I said in the room today is it is not me coming in and yelling at you, you guys should start yelling at each other to get some of you going because there were some guys that definitely weren’t playing very well tonight,” finished Boudreau on his discussion with the team after the game.
From my view, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Viktor Kozlov had an okay night, especially the Great #8, who when not scoring is at least hitting people, and Backstrom, but the other three lines are struggling. I’m seeing some flashes of good play from Eric Fehr and he is getting chances but he needs to start burying those opportunities. His delay of game penalty did lead to the third Florida goal. Brooks Laich seems to work hard every night but I’m not seeing much out of Michael Nylander, who is getting paid to produce and just isn’t cutting it.
Next up for the Caps is the New York Islanders on Thursday Night at the Verizon Center. It is $1 hot dog night!
Programming Note: Backstrom will be on WNST at 845am on Wednesday morning with Drew Forrester.
Blogging Note: I had a chance to talk with Hershey Bears Coach Bob Woods at the Caps game on Tuesday night so on Wednesday night I am going to post a blog with that complete interview. The Bears have won nine games in a row and lead the AHL in points.
Remember how I said this past summer that the decision by the Dallas Stars to sign forward and pest Sean Avery was not a good one for two reasons – the money they paid him and because he can wreck a locker room? Well Avery is proving me right as the knucklehead crossed the line in making comments about his former girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert, and her current boyfriend, Calgary Flames defensemen Dion Phaneuf, this afternoon.
“I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada,” Avery said on camera this morning in Calgary. “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about. Enjoy the game tonight.”
As a result of Avery’s comments he was suspended by the NHL for conduct detrimental to the league. Tom Hicks, owner of the Stars and Dave Tippett, coach of the Stars supported the decision. Comments by some of the other Dallas players such as goalie Marty Turco and forward Brad Richards seemed to support the suspension as well. By the way, perhaps getting rid of Avery for the night inspired the Stars because they wound up beating Calgary, 3-1, for their second straight win.