Thursday, October 8, 2009

Once Again, Caps Can't Finish

Three games, three poor finishes for the Capitals.

Last Saturday, the Capitals did their best to squander a 6-1 lead to the Maple Leafs in the third period, allowing three Toronto goals and then hanging on for a two-goal victory.

Tuesday night, Washington took a 5-4 lead halfway through the period despite a sub-par performance but a late penalty and fluky goal eventually led to an overtime loss in Philadelphia.

Then, Thursday night, after a gift goal thanks to Henrik Lundqvist and a quick strike shortly after that for a 3-2 lead, the Caps took only 18 seconds to squander their momentum and the lead, and crumbled down the stretch to suffer a 4-3 loss that left Bruce Boudreau testy.

While Jose Theodore was good for 48 minutes and kept Washington in the contest until that point with some good saves, his allowing two goals through the pads to Marian Gaborik certainly irked his coach, as Boudreau said afterwards that "you have to stop them."

Unfortunately for the Capitals, a growing problem in this season is something that dogged them last year, as while the team is terrific when they play 60 minutes of hockey - as evidenced by the impressive season-opening 4-1 win at Boston - they tend to try and get away with playing less than that and it burns them against good teams.

Against Toronto, they played two solid periods and a lousy third and put a game that was a laugher in doubt. Philadelphia, they probably played a period-plus of good hockey, but still managed to grab a standings point. Thursday night, although they played decent for some small stretches in the game, with their lack of success despite getting nine power plays - including two 5-on-3s - they perhaps played one period's worth of strong hockey against a team that was willing to slow down the Caps' free-wheeling ways and took advantage of a shoddy defensive effort.

Of course, it's just the fourth game of the season, and the first game Washington has been held without a standings point. But some of the issues that raised eyebrows last year are returning in full force in this year's edition of the Capitals.

Boudreau, while critical of his team's effort, also has to be questioned for his decision to play no defensemen on a 4-on-3 in the second period, using Alexander Ovechkin and Brendan Morrison at the points, a pairing that resulted in two odd-man rushes for New York, and eventually a goal against.

He also used Chris Clark extensively on some critical junctures, including the final power play and when Theodore cleared the crease for the extra attacker, and it seemed like an odd choice to use the captain in a situation where they needed a goal, particularly when he couldn't cash in on a golden chance in the first period. He wasn't particularly effective in that role, and there certainly were other players more capable of putting the puck in the net when they needed it most.

So, with just 48 hours to regroup before hitting Joe Louis Arena, the Capitals have some questions to try and solve in a hurry. The Red Wings are more likely to trade chances with the Capitals than the Rangers with, but of course, Detroit is also a lot more likely to bury several of those chances.

With all the talent the Caps have, to go 1-for-9 on the extra-man isn't acceptable, particularly with the two-man advantage opportunity. Washington made too many passes and too little going to the net, and Mike Knuble, who was brought in to crash the net in those situations, was surprisingly absent from those chances.

Another player who had a particularly lackluster performance was Mike Green, who couldn't hit the net on several good chances, and took a terrible penalty on a 5-on-3 in the offensive zone that eventually led to New York's first goal.

And, Boudreau has to decide who will be in the net on Saturday, as he has to choose which of his goaltenders that had mini-meltdowns this week will face the dangerous Red Wings that finally got in the win column Thursday with a win over Chicago.

But the Capitals will look to buck the downward trend they've had since the third period last Saturday, as they certainly need a better effort - and more consistent goaltending - against a very tough Detroit squad - to avoid falling to .500 after their 2-0-1 start.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure what breaks my heart more, Simeon's slow glove hand or Theo's loose wickets...these 3rd period blues have got to stop for us to even have a chance this year.