Monday, October 12, 2009

Put The Panic Button Down

Capitals 2, Devils 3 OT/SO (1-2)
Scoresheet - Post - Times

The Washington Capitals opened their three game home stand with a shoot out loss to the New Jersey devils 3-2. Much like the last game, the Caps played much better team defense, but it's the little mistakes and mental breakdowns that seem to cost the team wins. After starting off to a great first period, the Caps seemed to lessen the pressure and the Devils worked their way back from being down 2-0.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau started the night by demoting Alex Semin to the second line and putting Mike Knuble up with Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom. The result was a stellar first period for the top line, netting two goals, one by birthday boy Mike Green and the other by Knuble. Ovi had assists on both goals. But after the first period the Devils started shutting down all of the Caps offense and putting the pressure back on the Capitals.

In the second period, the Capitals had a defensive breakdown and the Devils scored on a 3 on 2. Then in the third period, the Devils pinned in the Caps in their zone for what seemed an eon and scored the tying goal off of some outstanding board work. The Caps once again, for the fourth straight game, fail to hold on to a third period lead.

The game would go to over time, where Brendan Morrison took a bad tripping call and the Devils had a 4 on 3. Some how, some way, Jose Theodore stood on his head to keep the puck out. He made save after save keeping it a tied game and sending it to the shootout.

Backstrom was able to score on the Caps first attempt with a laser shot to the top right corner, besting Martin Brodeur's glove. But Theo couldn't keep out Zach Parise's wrister. Semin missed fired when he went glove side on Brodeur. Theo looked as if he had saved the Jamie Langenbrunner shot, but it ricocheted off his pad and into the net. Ovi couldn't deke Broduer on his back hand and the Devils take home 2 points.

The Caps didn't play a poor game. Besides the occasional mental mistakes, they were solid versus a very hard working Devil team. The Caps took fewer penalties and were able to kill off the ones they did take. But the Capitals couldn't score on the power play, including 53 seconds of a 5 on 3 in the third period. It is an area of concern for the Caps who know rank 20th in the league with the man advantage.

Is there cause for concern, sure. But it is not time to go full blown red alert. 5 of the six teams the Capitals have played so far were 95 points or better last year. Washington only lost by one goal in each of those loses. For the Caps to come out with 6 points is on the disappointing side, but not on the "let's blow the team up and start from scratch" side.

Areas that need improving are the power play, better defense and goal production from the second line. The Caps haven't pulled together a complete game either. Something they will have to do if they wish to simply repeat what they have done last year. What is frustrating about it all, it's the same problems they had last season. They couldn't score on 5 on 3's, they took bad penalties and they were prone to small mental mistakes.

I would rather have these breakdowns on game 6 rather than game 78, or in the playoffs. There are positives to pull out of this loss as well. The top line of Knuble, Ovechkin and Backstrom can be a really scary line. Theo is playing a much more focused game. And Mike Green finally has a goal.

Puckhead's Player of the Game: Jose Theodore. The game could have easily ended in over time when the Devils had a 4 on 3 power play. But Theo made the saves to keep his team in it. It's hard not to start this guy after the effort he put forth in the last two games. If the Caps could get him a win, it would help.

Caps Notes:
  • There was a fight in this game between Chris Clark and David Clarkson, but it was more hugging than throwing punches. Clarkson got in a cheapy at the end.
  • Ovi finished with 2 assists to bring his points total up to 12 and the lead in points in the NHL.
  • Green celebrated his 24th birthday by netting a goal, had 30:31 of ice time (most by any Capital), had 3 hits and 3 giveaways.
  • John Erskine blocked a shot and injured himself in the third period, he did not return to the game. He is listed as day-to-day, it opens the door for either Jeff Schultz or Tyler Sloan to see more ice time.

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