Friday, February 08, 2008

Caps Can't Help Themselves

Capitals 1, Hurricanes 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

This is twice where the Capitals have shanked an important division game, almost in carbon copy manner. The Caps couldn't put the Thrashers away to give them the lead in the Southeast then, and they couldn't keep the lead against the Hurricanes tonight. The sad thing is, the Caps lost both games at home. It's not like the 'Canes played a perfect game against the Capitals, for a team that is dead last in penalty kills Carolina thwarted all of the Capitals power plays leaving them with a 0 for seven mark. And just like that the Caps are on the outside looking in.

When the Caps have had the opportunity to help themselves in the Southeast Division standings, they have failed. The Capitals are 9-9-2 against their division rivals, while the Thrashers, Hurricanes and Panthers all have winning stats against their foes.

The Caps came out sluggish and looked tired through the entire game. That might be because the Hurricanes is the more experienced team. Carolina simply out worked and out hustled the Caps. It didn't matter that their two goals came early and their offense was mere spurts off of Capitals' turnovers, they out played the Caps in their own building. They were more physical, more hungry, just the better team. They wore the Caps down, so it wasn't any surprise that the Capitals looked sluggish and tired right when they needed legs the most.

Alex Semin scored the Caps only goal and while he was a catalyst for recharging the offense half way through the third, he was the buzzkill late in the period taking a bad slashing penalty away from the puck (just because he was pulled down). Any chance of a comeback was snuffed out at that point. Alex Ovechkin was pretty much silenced and when the 'Canes had a chance to hit the league leading scorer, they did.

While I do think Eric Fehr is the Caps' future, he isn't ready yet. He had been pushed back to the second line after the top line couldn't get any pressure going. It makes me wonder if Fehr needs some more time in Hershey before he can be pulled up again. He looks slow and is out of position. His shots are coming from standing in front of the net and each time he comes off the ice he looks winded and out of breath. John Erskine left in the first after getting hurt, and the Caps just looked beat after the game was over. A completely different team that walked into Wachovia Center in Philly and took first place.

The power play was a piece of crap. They were too predictable and they stopped moving all together for the later man advantages. You can credit Cam Ward for showing up because every shot was right at him. I can't tell you how many shots just hit him, when Ward wasn't even moving. On the opposite side of the rink, Brent Johnson made some pretty spectacular saves. He was the only reason the 'Canes didn't jump to a 4-0 or 5-0 lead when the Caps' defense struggled.

But that is experience for you. Carolina has been through those wars, they know how to play big games. It's quite obvious the Capitals are not ready. The Hurricanes knew exactly what they needed to do, and even though it wasn't pretty, it got the job done and the Capitals need to learn to not just get to these kind of big games, but need to learn how to win them. If the Caps can't win these divisional games, then it will be a longer summer than expected for them.

The crowd was big at the phone booth, it was announced 18,204 and it sounded and looked like it. The 'Canes took the crowd out of it pretty early even with a late rally.


Anonymous said...

I expect a pretty big game from AO on Sunday, since he really didn't do anything in this game (give credit to Carolina, who shut him down).

Johnson did his job and gave them a chance to win.

Semin - what can you say? Typical Semin. From greatness to idiocy. Brashear did the same thing, but in fairness, should never have gotten 4 minutes in penalties.

Inexperience or what, the Caps almost always seem to lose these "marquee" games where something's on the line and there is a big crowd. The need to win these games, both for points and for attendance.

Garrett said...

I think the Caps seem to let the big games slip because they really haven't really played in any "do or die" games in the past 2 1/2 seasons. Bottom line is the Caps had opportunity with the extra man and couldn't score. Thinking back on it, I was kind of surprised that the veterans on the team, Kozlov and Poti, both had quiet games. These guys should know that these are games the Cap must win to be competitive.