One would think that Ovechkin’s hat trick against Toronto the other night was the spark that would re-ignite the Capitals offense. Last night’s game against the Thrashers was eagerly anticipated by many with expectations of seeing the old Caps offense of the early season just explode right before the weekend All Star break.
Alas, no. The Caps lost to a streaky Atlanta team 1-0, with Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec shutting the Caps down once again. Quite a difference for the Atlanta netminder, who started the season by fainting to the ice in the first period against the Caps. With the win, the Thrashers take the season series with a 4-1-1 record against the Capitals.
It’s not without effort on the Caps part, however. They have been trying like crazy to make something work; witness the onslaught against hapless Toronto. But the offense just isn’t clicking in the right way and goals aren’t coming in the bunches everyone is used to seeing over the last three years. The Caps threw 36 shots on Pavelec last night; Ovechkin accounted for 8 and Brooks Laich for 7. The Caps have scored more than three goals only once in the last 15 games.
Still, it cannot be said that the Caps are sinking. They entered last night’s contest having taken 8 out of a possible 10 points. They’re getting the job done, just not done well.
Coach Bruce Boudreau can’t seem to explain it either. “I don’t know,” he told John Manasso of NHL.com. “It’s probably we got a lot of guys playing right now that aren’t used to scoring a lot of goals and the guys are getting the great chances are the guys who maybe should be scoring the goals – they’re not. I don’t have answers. I can’t go out and score. They’re trying their (butts) off but, I mean, it’s not going in. And their goalie played great. And I’m tired of saying it, but it’s a lot of what happened.”
What is noticeable is that despite the lack of goals and a mediocre power play, the team is much more committed to defense. While not exactly stellar, high-octane hockey, it is more akin to playoff hockey – and since the Caps’ main goal is to advance through the playoffs rather than sink early in another 7 game series, it’s something to hold on to.
The team now gets a much-needed break with the All Star weekend coming up. The next game is Tuesday, Feb 1, with a visit by the Montreal Canadiens.