It might’ve been the tryptophan hangover, but the Capitals sure had a black Friday against the Rangers, dropping the matinee 6-3. Surrendering four goals in the 2nd period, and two more in the third did them no favors. The Caps got sloppy on Friday, and gave up some ugly goals, including getting stripped in their own zone. It’s no wonder that in the post-game press conference, Bruce Boudreau said that the Caps were lacking in confidence. Ruslan Fedotenko notched a pair for the Rangers, and Ryan Callahan picked up three assists as the Rangers picked apart the Capitals defense and made opportunities into goals.
The Caps’ Jekyll/Hyde inconsistency this season is something they’re going to have to sort out if they want a shot at the Cup, and while they made strides toward fixing a few of their problems tonight, they were struggling in others. As much as the Caps were making mistakes tonight, the Rangers were just as quick to strike while they had the opportunity, turning missed covers by Neuvirth and blue line turnovers into goals.
After the game, defenseman Karl Alzner was quick to identify their issue: “We’re getting too down. As soon as we get a goal scored against us it kind of feels like it’s the end of the world… we’re killing our momentum by having them score and the giving up another one.” The Caps put together such a strong first period, especially on the penalty kill where they were 3-for-3 in the first, that they were just waiting for their moment to strike as they headed out for the second. John Carlson said after the game, “I don’t think too many things are going our way. We kind of sensed that we could get back in the game,” and he was spot on. The Caps struck back down 3-0 with goals by Troy Brouwer and Carlson to bring things near to even, but Brian Boyle fired one home toward the end of the period to let the air out of their rally, striking on a rebound that Neuvirth should have controlled.
It was disappointing to see such an unpolished performance from the Caps defense, especially given their Monday and Wednesday performances. The Caps head to Buffalo tomorrow night, and will face a tough Buffalo team looking to right their own ship, having lost two in a row. Confidence issues will be front and center as they head into one of the toughest visiting venues they face.
Alex Ovechkin picked up his first home goal since last April on an effort that hearkened back to a much younger Ovi. He also lead the team in hits with 8. A particularly strong hit in the 2nd setup the Caps first goal of the night. Boudreau said of Ovi, “he was definitely a main factor in our first goal and he scored the third goal. He set up a couple really good plays. If that’s getting out of his little funk, then that’s a bright spot out of a not necessarily bright game.”
Brooks Laich again slotted into the defense in the third period, his second turn as a defenseman this season so far. If you haven’t read Stephen Whyno’s profile on Laich, do yourself the favor and read it. Laich’s a bright spot for the Caps this year, just not on the stat sheet, yet.
Michal Neuvirth may have been left out to dry in places tonight, and his GAA has taken a bit of a beating this season, but you can’t lay all of tonight on him, even if a few of those tallies were his to own.
Roman Hamrlik’s -3 performance isn’t what this team needs right now, either, and while there’ve been good shifts with good hits and blocks, there’s been a few bad passes, and positional issues.
Dennis Wideman had the lion’s share of the giveaways on Friday night, with 5, including a particularly ugly one that lead to the Ranger’s 4th goal.