Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Capitals drop home opener to Winnipeg

The Verizon Center crowd was decked out in read, holding up signs that read "Welcome Back" and "We missed you" in anticipation of the Washington Capitals long-awaited home opener.
Unfortunately for the fans, the guys in red, white and blue jerseys on the ice weren't as excited.
Washington fell to the Southeast Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets, 4-2, for their first loss in a home opener since 2000.
The Capitals are also 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 1996-97.
For the second consecutive outing, the Capitals overall performance was lackluster and not worthy of a team that came within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
A lack of fundamentals and effort caused Washington to surrender two power-play goals 3:52 apart in the first period to let an early 1-0 lead turn into a one-goal deficit.
Capitals defensemen John Carlson was caught flat-footed as an Evander Kane pass delfected off of Carlson's left skate and passed Captials' goaltender, Braden Holtby, for the Jets first goal. The second came when Andrew Ladd became wide-open in the slot with Washington's penalty killers, again, standing around watching.
Carlson's poor effort cost the Capitals late in the second period. With the Capitals still trailing by one, Carlson non-chalantly skated backwards as Kane exited the Jets zone. Carlson waived his stick at Kane, but Kane quickly elluded the stick, and Carlson, and skated into the Caps zone where he sent a cross-ice pass to forward Blake Wheeler. Wheeler easily tipped the puck passed Holtby for a 3-1 lead as Washington's Karl Alzner stood in front of the net dumbfounded.
Troy Brouwer did score on the power play with 1:16 left in the game to give the remaining fans something to clap about, but that is a small consolation.
The effort and mistakes in these first two games are troubling. Yes, the Capitals are learning a new system under not-ideal circumstances with the short-season, but that is no reason for a lack of effort. If Carlson was out of position on Kane's rush on the Jets third goal, ok, that will happen when learning a new system. But, skating backwards, flat-footed, waiving your stick is unacceptable for a player considered to be a core guy for the next decade.
The Capitals are also still trying to find a rythm offensively which I find surprising. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom played on the same line in the KHL during the lockout, but only have three combined points, all assists, through the first two games.
A notable lack of chemistry has shown with the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Marcus Johannson. Ovechkin is learning to play a new position which shouldn't be ignored, but I still thought he and Backstrom would be able to connect enough to pressure defenses until Ovechkin becomes completely comfortable.
The season is still young, and a win over the visiting Montreal Canadians tomorrow night will help ease the distaste of these two early losses.
Another loss, though, and the distaste will turn into distain.

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