Friday, February 20, 2009

West Continues To Frustrate Caps At Home

Capitals 1, Avalanche 4
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Western Conference apparently didn't get the memo about how hard it is to win at the Verizon Center. For that matter the Caps may have used the home ice as too much of a crutch. The Colorado Avalanche played a well defended game in front of the Caps' faithful and come away with the win as the Caps looked tired and lethargic in another lose to a western team at home 4-1.

Nick Backstrom was the only goal scorer on a beautiful pass from Tomas Fleischmann. That goal came with just 15 seconds left in the first and it was the only life the Caps could muster for the rest of the game. Jose Theodore played well, but was bombarded with too many odd man rushes off of bad turnovers that in the end he just could not deny the offensive savvy of his former team.

It was mostly turnovers that haunted the Capitals all night. Failure to get the puck out of their zone, bad passes in the neutral zone or playing out of position were the glaring mistakes made by the home team. Normally, the Caps talented stick handling forwards are able to get themselves out of trouble, but the Aves strong stick play caused turnover after turnover and the Aves transition often caught the Caps badly out of position.

The puck was a bouncing terror for the Caps in this game too. Most likely due to the bad ice, but it is not an excuse to use for the way the Capitals played tonight. Remember, this is the same ice the Caps have a 23-5-1 record on, so I don't think the ice is the overall problem.

Bruce Boudreau shook the lines up in the third breaking up the SOB line and demoting Alex Semin to the second line and promoting Eric Fehr to the top line. While the change brought some chemistry and a couple of golden chances in the third, the line did fail to score.
Micheal Nylander had a pretty bad game tonight as well. He had turned over the puck in the neutral zone that led directly to a goal, and he just couldn't keep the puck on the end of his stick. Mike Green's jumping up in the play also seemed to do more damage than good tonight.

Backstrom threw a late hit that besides being interference was pretty clean. Avalanche WojtekWolski thought the hit was a little too high and went after Backstrom and it took Alex Ovechkin to step in to prevent any punches throw. Backstrom's high hit maybe have been a show of frustration on the night as the Capitals were just stymied all game long.

Credit Aves' coach Tony Granato and his team for pressuring the Capital wings in this game forcing turnovers that favored them. Instead of their forecheck going after the Caps point men, they went after the players the pass was coming too. They quickly jumped on the puck carrier after the first pass and didn't allow much freedom in the neutral zone. The Caps just couldn't shake the defensive system the Aves played.

Puckhead's player of the game has got to go to Fleischmann. His play was the best of any other Capital. He played strong for his line, setting up numerous opportunities for his linemates and had the pretty assist on Backstrom's goal. He was also the only Caps' player to finish the night a +1.

Whatever is ailing the Caps they need to shake out of it by Sunday when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on NBC's game of the week. The Caps did have a chance to pull away from the NJ Devils with a win, but that didn't happen. It's looking more and more like there is no way any one is going to catch Boston atop the Eastern Conference standings.

AP Photo, Nick Wass

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