Something is acutely wrong with the Washington Capitals right now. You would think that a last minute loss to the Nashville Predators and an overall stretch of very porous play would do something to raise the team’s indignation level a smidge above lukewarm. Nope. The Capitals seem perfectly content playing non-noteworthy hockey, and by that, we mean playing with the emotional intensity of the lead in ‘Weekend at Bernie’s.’ Doctor please check the patient and let us know if you can find the pulse.
The Capitals started well in Winnipeg, going up 1-0 on a nifty deke move by Alexander Semin that brought Ondrej Pavelec out of his net. This gave Semin more than enough room to flick the puck in the upper corner to give the Caps the lead.
Did Washington build on this momentum? Absolutely not. Instead they fell asleep, which by the way, is exactly what they did against Nashville, yielding the game tying goal a mere thirty seconds after they took what looked to be a game defining 1-0 lead.
Again in Winnipeg, the Capitals were forced back into their own zone immediately after taking the lead. We know that there’s such a thing as anti-matter. Do the Capitals operate in a strange parallel universe now where goals lead to anti-momentum? That’s how things appear to me.
Before Semin’s goal the Capitals were buzzing. They were moving their legs and creating chances. Alexander Ovechkin was found in the clear by Nicklas Backstrom and caught the Jets on a 2-on-1 break with Troy Brouwer. He easily could have shot it, but Alex made a fantastic pass to Brouwer in the clear who had a great chance that was saved by Pavelec. No dice on that one but at least the Caps appeared hungry.
That all changed after the Capitals took the lead as they would get pushed around, and appeared a step slow to react. On the Jets game-tying goal, Marcus Johansson was shoved to the ice in the corner, and both John Carlson and Dennis Wideman were slow to react to Evander Kane jumping into the middle slot. More than Carlson, Wideman, or anyone else on the ice being able to keep up with Kane’s speed, it was like they couldn’t keep up with his intensity.
Not only was the Capitals effort noticeably soporific, (that's nothing new lately.) but the feckless effort came with blunders aplenty.
Joel Ward had a chance to either dump the puck out of his zone, or at least walk the puck away from his net. Unbelievably, he did neither, electing to try to escape the Jets pressure by walking back toward his net. No no no no! The results were predictably tragic as Ward would have the puck stripped and controlled by Kane who shot from a sharp angle and somehow scored. They say that when you work hard, good luck follows. The opposite is also true.
Forget everything I wrote here, all you need to know about this game is this: The Capitals had more giveaways (7) then hits, (5) and absolutely no takeaways. It’s hard to ‘Rock The Red’ when this team appears half dead. This is the NHL. You don’t beat teams just by showing up. Its way too early in the year to panic, and this could just be a bad stretch of games, but why have we seen so many times when this entire team, to a man, appears lost in the doldrums? Where is the veteran leadership? What is Captain Ovechkin doing about the problem?
More Caps Observations:
- Right now I can only give you this unabashed perspective: Alexander Ovechkin no longer appears to be in the upper elite of the league. I’m talking about being in that class with Steven Stamkos, the Sedin’s, and when healthy, yes Sidney Crosby. He tries the same outside-inside curl-and-drag move too many times when he’s rushing down the sides. The league already had that move figured out last year. Alex is also whiffing or getting too many of his shots blocked, and to pile on even more, he just doesn’t look like he has the same ability to take over games. He’s still a fantastic player, and still as physical as ever, but honestly we have to ask at this point if Ovy’s lost a step. (I hope these words do come back to bite me, I really do.)
- Big fan of him early on, but Wideman has looked pretty bad lately. At times when I didn’t see his jersey number I just assumed he was either Schultz or a Hamrlik these past few games. The guy has looked slow and out-of-position. I like Dennis’s game overall though, and think this might just be a short-term thing.