Death and taxes are two guarantees in life, but if I could choose a third one, it would be that you will have a very had time winning hockey games with poor goaltending. On Tuesday night at the Verizon Center an inconsistent Tomas Vokoun turned in another clunker and as a result the Washington Capitals were soundly beaten by the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-1.
Washington came into this contest fresh off of three days rest ready to see how their new system would match up against a team that had won seven of eight games and five straight overall. The Caps carried much of the play for the first 15 minutes or so and had the nights first two power plays. But Ilya Bryzgalov (31 saves) was extremely solid for the Flyers in net to keep his banged up road club in it and when Vokoun misplayed a Scott Hartnell shot that was slowed by Caps d-man Dennis Wideman, suddenly Philadelphia had a goal and new life.
Anyone who has followed hockey closely or played the game knows how deflating it can be to work your rear off and dominate a team only to look up and see themselves down on the scoreboard due to the guy in net. The crew that was carrying the play loses confidence and the other squad gains energy. The Flyers were a different team after that Hartnell tally and started dominating late in the opening stanza and then into the middle frame. They then scored again on a deflected point shot at the 7:23 mark and the Capitals just didn’t recover. Vokoun would yield another soft goal along with an additional deflection tally before giving way to Michal Neuvirth for the third period.
Some will call the Caps mentally weak for letting poor goaltending impact their play in this one, however, when your goalies continually give up a weak goal or multiple soft ones game after game, it drains the energy and confidence of the team. This is what is going on with the Capitals right now. Their goalies simply aren’t making the big stop when they need them on a consistent basis. It is an issue that must be addressed and Coach Dale Hunter needs to have one of Vokoun or Neuvirth take charge in goal otherwise it might be time to give Braden Holtby a shot with the big club again.
Washington had other problems on Tuesday night, they didn’t get enough traffic on Bryzgalov early on to rattle him and as a result the Russian goalie got into a groove. In addition, some of the Capitals younger small forwards, namely Cody Eakin, Marcus Johansson, and Mathieu Perreault, had trouble in their own zone with the more physically mature Flyers in the middle frame and that added to the Flyers sustained offensive pressure, that eventaully led to three goals. It might be time for Eakin to be sent down to Hershey to properly develop because he just doesn’t look ready for the NHL grind at this stage of his career.
Still, at the end of the night, this game came down to goaltending. It is very difficult to win when your netminders aren’t playing well and Vokoun was downright terrible to continue a disturbring trend for GM George McPhee’s club.
Notes: The Caps next two games are on the road. They are in Winnipeg on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday…Jeff Halpern had the only Washington goal in the third period after it was 5-0…Alexander Semin had five hits to lead the Caps in that department…Washington’s power play went 0 for 3.