The three most interesting minutes of hockey at the Verizon Center last night didn’t happen on the ice– it came when Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau was analyzing his team’s 3-1 loss to Atlanta during his post-game presser.
Boudreau was frank about why a team with as much firepower and as many chances as the Capitals (they finished with 46 shots on goal) fell short of the win.“You can have a hundred perimeter shots , and it looks good on the stat board, but if they’re not taking penalties cross-checking you in the back and tripping you in front of the net, that means you’re not fighting to get through there,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think it was one of those games where he [Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec] had to make a tremendous amount of second saves on the same play, and that’s what scores goals.”
“You look at our team, we haven’t scored a lot of goals lately,” Boudreau continued (the Caps have only had one 3 or more goal game in the past four outings). “I think it’s the lack of commitment to paying the price to score. We’re all wanting to score, but we’re staying on the perimeter hoping to get the puck rather than being the guy that’s going to get the puck. And the guys that did that had chances, but they’re not natural goal scorers…the guys that are looking to score are not getting their nose dirty enough to score the goal.”
John Carlson summed it up in one line: “We attacked the zone well, but we really didn’t attack the net that well.”
The ice wasn’t really in top form, either – there was a basketball game that afternoon and the night before in the building. Players slipped frequently, and the puck looked like it was taking a few weird turns. Carlson was quick to point out that Atlanta had to deal with the same issue, however. He did observe that the Capitals’ skillset in passing may be something of a handicap on poor ice.
“We’re a pretty skilled team — we like to make nice plays, but it’s a lot tougher than just getting the puck on net and whacking away than trying to make those nice passes on bad ice,” Carlson. “I’m sure on a lot of plays that we would like to have a clean slate of ice — maybe it would make those plays.”
A bright spot for the Capitals Saturday was Alex Ovechkin breaking his 9-game scoring drought with a goal at the end of the second period. The Capitals did an excellent job keeping the puck in the offensive zone for almost two minutes, and Ovechkin had at least three tries before finding the back of the net (Ted Starkey of the Washington Times helped run the numbers). The end of the second period spent in Atlanta’s zone was a great reminder of just how dominant this team can be – Karl Alzner and Nicklas Backstrom were both on the ice for the goal, and Carlson and Alexander Semin had the assists.
New Washington Capital Scott Hannan was paired with Tyler Sloan for his home debut and logged 14:33 of ice time, including 37 seconds of penalty killing. He finished with a -1 and was on the ice for Atlanta’ second goal, which frankly looked like it caught the entire Caps contingent out of position.
Finally, this is a minor note and hard to describe, but worth mentioning – Mike Green’s much more confident attitude this season. There was one point in the game when play stopped and Green had a sort of standoff by the net with one of the Atlanta players. It wasn’t even a skirmish, but Green’s body language at that point caught my attention – he was clearly saying, this is my goalie’s crease, it’s my turf to defend, my house, and it really looked like he was proud to defend it. I don’t know that this attitude will necessarily reflect itself on the stats sheet anytime soon, but I think it bodes well for the team and for Green’s continued maturation as a blueliner.