Maybe it was the road trip catching up to them, but one thing is for sure, the Washington Capitals certainly did not take advantage of the chances they had against the Vancouver Canucks. Nicklas Backstrom’s failed conversion of Ovi’s centering pass in the early going foreshadowed a night of just coming up short. And of course they’re back at it again tonight.
- It became evident to me through the middle of the second period that the Caps are a little tired of playing on the road. While they have had time in between matchups, the team has played seven of their last nine games on the road and only two at home all month. Road weary, perhaps, as opposed to physically weary.
- Fatigue is something all teams must deal with, but it is how a team deals with the fatigue that determines whether or not they are championship caliber. Washington was able to power through the game and have a real shot at earning at least a point at the end, but their play on defense was where you saw them struggle. You saw several odd man rushes for Vancouver and one of the Canucks’ goals got an assist from Jeff Shultz’ foot. Maybe just really bad luck, maybe a bit of mental fatigue. The team certainly looked dog tired at the end of the game and one can only imagine what they will look like Saturday playing their second game in two nights.
- The power play was the real culprit Friday night. Going 0-4 with the extra man is almost unheard of with this high-powered offense. The team’s tired feet manifested itself most conspicuously on the final PP, when a helpless Nicklas Backstrom had no teammate skating to open space in the Canucks’ end. They began to have problems holding on to the puck in the offensive zone and moving it out of the defensive zone.
- There were some flashes of productivity last night, but that often came from a hard nosed style of hockey. Over the last two years you have heard Head Coach Bruce Boudreau stress how cutesy plays will not translate into goals and wins. I can imagine he will stress that again after the Caps turned the puck over on the power play and allowed Vancouver to have nine takeaways.
- All was not bad for Washington, though, as Alexander Semin*, Chris Clark and David Steckel all had quality games, I thought. Clark was a real gamer — again! Semin’s praise may have to have an asterisks on it since he often found himself trying to make a fancy play, but it was his screaming wrister that put the Caps on the board in the first. He wasn’t so effective thereafter, but he clearly gave Washington its best scoring opportunities.
- Steckel has looked re-energized since he scored his first goal a few games back. He had quality shots and took advantages of the chances he had, something several players failed to do. What is most important is that he played with confidence and looked like the Stecks we saw in the playoffs last year.
- Jose Theodore? You can’t hang this setback on him, I don’t think. He wasn’t tested all that much — a credit to the Caps’ team D, I thought — and there were instances when I thought he showed strong rebound control.
- Tom Poti? Well . . . it was an indisputable cross-check deep in the final frame, and he compounded his mental lapse with some mouthing off that added to the Caps’ PK challenge. Really it should have been a night that produced a point for the Caps, but you can’t have a reliable vet making those kind of mental mistakes in crunch time.
- Finally, we have the fearless leader Clark. He showed that he had some wheels tonight, beating out defenders for the puck and even had a goal off of two blocked shots. I have discussed him before, but his play denotes mentioning again as it was superb. A healthy Chris Clark is a serious asset for the Caps.
- This loss is a cautionary tale of what happens when a team doesn’t grind it out. Sure, they hung strong for about two periods, but Vancouver clearly pulled away in the third. It wasn’t Ovi’s most complete or inspired effort. He can’t be a game-breaker every night, but he was a disappointing -1 with three missed shots. Roberto Luongo stops most of the rubber that finds its way on net, so helping him out by blasting pucks high and wide is a prescription for defeat.
- With only one more West Coast game to go before they return home — will they be able to return home ??? — Washington needs to focus on just doing the little things. Their legs may feel like rubber by the second period Saturday night, but if they keep those feet moving and just play fundamental hockey they should be able to escape with at least one point.
- Now is a sort of defining moment for the Capitals. Adversity is what defines a team and how they get through can shape a season. While it is only December, this is no time to fall into a mini-slide. A win tonight could be enough to power this tired band of hockey brothers through the holidays and high up in the overall standings through the Olympic break.
It will be exciting to watch Ovechkin play. It must be something to be a fan of a team that has so much talent. It could be one step closer to the draft lottery for my Oilers lol.