A team wearing Washington Capitals jersey's took the ice tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center, but it wasn't a team ready to compete.
The Capitals were thoroughly outplayed and outclassed by the Blackhawks in a 5-2 route. Washington was routinely beat to loose pucks and outhustled as they struggled from the opening faceoff to generate consistent offensive pressure and defend their own net.
All four Chicago goals were the result of having superior talent, but a team that clearly plays together and makes the necessary sacrifices you need to win at this time of the year.
The Capitals could not keep up with the Blackhawks passing ability on the games first goal and Washington netminder Michael Neuvirth couldn't keep up with the puck.
A shot that deflected off of a Capitals defender and into the middle of the slot where Duncan Keith easily shot the loose puck past an unsuspecting Neuvirth.
On the 'Hawks second goal, Viktor Stalberg outskated Dmitri Orlov to the loose puck and because of a bad angle taken by Orlov easily got to the net. Stalberg deeked left and sent the puck into the net while Neuvirth was still moving into position to attempt to make the save.
It was 2-0 less then 8 minutes into the game and the Blackhawks never looked back.
The Capitals did strike twice in the second period of goals by Mike Knuble and Alex Oveckin. Ovechkin's goal was a classic show of skill as he deeked around the Chicago defender before beating Corey Crawford with a wrist shot.
Knuble's goal was followed by two more Chicago goals and Ovechkin's was followed by a third period of mostly uninspired play by the Capitals.
After the win over the Islanders on Tuesday in which the Capitals overcame a three-goal deficit, Dale Hunter talked about having great leaders in the Capitals' locker room.
Where was that leadership Sunday night?
Who made sure the Capitals came out with the right attitude and put forth a strong, consistent effort from the drop of the puck?
The bottomline is no matter how they try and rationalize their performances, the Capitals are not good enough to compete with the upper echelon of the NHL this season.
I read a post on the Washington Posts Capitals Insider blog this week where a fan said he would love to see a first round Caps-Penguins matchup this season.
My question is why?
If fans thought being swept by the Lightning was embarassing last season, how do they think a first round meeting with the Penguins would turn out?
Sunday night, the Capitals demonstrated once again why they aren't a Stanley Cup caliber team.
I'm starting to think they aren't even a playoff team.