The Capitals lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, 4-3, their fourth loss in their last five games, to drop to 4-4-2 after 10 games.
If you go by the pulse on twitter from many Caps fans afterwards you’d think the sky is falling and the team is doomed.
I’ll admit this, I didn’t watch the Caps game in its entirety live, I had tickets to take my wife and kids to Frozen On Ice in Baltimore so I came home and watched the contest after the fact.
My first impression: how the heck did the Caps lose this one?
They out shot attempted the Bolts, 57-46, and more importantly, they had close to double the number of chances Tampa had.
Some of the pulse on twitter was to blame Braden Holtby.
Seriously? If not for some ten bell saves by #70 at crucial times, the Caps could’ve been down two pucks on several occasions.
Watching the four goals against closely, he was not the primary player at fault on ANY of them. The first goal was a defensive turnover that led to poor coverage. Note that noone is on Ryan Callahan as he deflects that shot home. On the second tally, the Caps blow coverage and the Tampa player has an empty net. The third goal was a deflection in front where the Caps defense fails to box out or at least tie up the stick of the Bolts forward. Finally, on the game winner, the Capitals cleanly lose a d-zone draw and the puck hits a Caps player on the way into the net.
That’s three deflections and an empty net goal. I counted at least six huge stops by Holtby in this game so blaming him is just wrong, in my book.
If there is anything to criticize, it is the Capitals inability to protect their own net well and they also have been prone to the deadly turnover in their own zone.
At the other end of the ice, Washington basically stormed the castle. If not for missed shots and some fortuitous saves by Ben Bishop, the Caps could’ve had AT LEAST six goals. They hit four posts in this one and missed the cage on some great open looks.
Bottom line is the Caps dominated this game and should’ve won. They lost because of bad PDO as ace analytics man Neil Greenberg would call it, or crummy puck luck, in layman’s terms.
This 2014-15 Capitals club is a way better puck possession team than those from the last several years, the statistics bear that out. Unfortunately they are struggling to finish their chances right now. But that should change and the number of critical turnovers will likely decrease. If there is something Coach Barry Trotz may want to rethink, it’s how the defense plays opposing forwards around their own net. The Capitals need to be stronger on the opponent there and not give them free reign to the cage for deflections or rebound chances. It’s harder to achieve in the modern NHL because of the rules, but it is doable.
Overall, they’ve been in every game but from a points standpoint are a .500 club. The schedule has been tough, Tampa has the most regulation or overtime wins in the conference and Detroit is rolling right now. The Caps carried the play against both of them this week, and lost.
Tough stretches happen and good teams work their way out of it and become great teams (see the 2000 Baltimore Ravens who went five weeks without a TD but ended up winning the Super Bowl). The Capitals have a lot of talent on their roster, some of it extremely young. But they have a super blue line and that is why you are seeing the strong puck possession numbers.
So to me, the key for Coach Trotz, Alex Ovechkin, and the rest of the team is to stay the course. Just because you lost four of five games don’t go crazy and make drastic changes. Keep the overall plan and make some minor tweaks.
If they do that and keep dominating possession, then the biscuit will start bouncing their way and the wins will come, in bunches.
I predicted this team would win the Metropolitan Division and I still believe in that, if they stick with the game plan and keep working hard to get better.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
We are 10 games in and this team has been right there in every tilt. That hasn’t been the case in the last few years.
It’s a long season and the best team in October rarely wins the Stanley Cup.
Patience everyone, patience!
Notes: The Caps are home against the Arizona Coyotes at 7 pm on Sunday night…Ovechkin had his first point in six games when Marcus Johansson buried the Gr8’s rebound in the first period…Washington was 1 for 2 on the power play and they killed off both Tampa man advantage situations.