courtesy of bridgetds
The calendar turned a page yesterday, but the Washington Capitals are still playing from their November playbook as they lost 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night at Verizon Center. Jason Chimera scored the lone goal for the Caps to continue his hot start to the season. It was the first time the Caps had lost to the Penguins in regulation in more than three years.
In the Caps’ second straight loss under new head coach Dale Hunter, the team played a physically aggressive game but were badly outshot, 35-17 for the game. “We played too much in our own end,” said Hunter after the game. “We have got to get the puck out much quicker.”
Call it “Dale Hunter Hockey” as it is emerging over the past four days. It starts with solid defense, the relentless pursuit of the puck, lots of hard hitting, and battles in the corners. The Caps had a strong forecheck all night, getting to the offensive corners and winning position battles. But they failed to control the puck and were not able to convert the aggressive play into scoring chances. Passes did not connect. Very few shots were directed toward the goal.
I am reminded of the days when Ollie Kolzig would routinely face 40 shots a night backstopping a scrappy, tight-checking team. I miss Bruce Boudreau already. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
The Caps want to start tuning up for the playoffs. After grinding out an 4-3 overtime victory against the Blue Jackets on Thursday at Verizon Center, they have 101 points, eight points more than the Lightning in the division with four to play (six for Tampa).
Washington trails the Flyers by a point for the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference and home ice through to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Presidents’ Cup is out of reach as the Canucks have it all but mathematically wrapped up. So, the Caps are more or less looking at a No. 2 seed heading into the playoffs with a possible No. 1 and it is time to fine tune the program so as to vanquish the ghosts of playoffs past.
Or so you would think.
Bob McKenzie, one of the elite reporters in all of hockey, tweeted during the Caps game on Thursday that defenseman Dennis Wideman was in the hospital with a hematoma on his leg that developed after an awkward hit from Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu on Tuesday.
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Nine straight games.
Pretty good for a team that folk said was in complete disarray and out of the Stanley Cup picture three months ago. The Caps current streak now exceeds its lowest point of the season, the eight-game losing streak in December that led up to the Winter Classic. The highest high is now greater than the lowest low.
And Washington is looking to get higher.
The questions have been about the offense. Why haven’t they been scoring? What is wrong with Ovie? Traditionally though, with this group and this coach, scoring has not been a problem and the Caps are showing signs of getting out of the doldrums that plagued them throughout the middle of the season in the scoring department. The defense this year has been surprisingly competent in front of young, solid goaltending. Through the nine-game win streak, Washington has given up 13 goals for an impressive 1.44 goals against per game.
The question becomes – can these new defensive dynamics lead the Caps to the Promised Land?
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Playing their third game in four days (and fifth in eight), the Caps managed to hold off an equally tired Atlanta team last night 6-4 with a ripping shot from John Erskine with just under seven minutes remaining. It was Erskine’s second goal in four games; previously, he’s had seven goals in 336 career games. There was some joking in the locker room that the sudden burst of offense from the defenseman of late was from the new mustache. “Yeah, the ‘stache has been good luck this month,” he joked. “I talked to the wife and I might be keeping it for a while.”
“He’s let a couple of really good shots go this year. He’s finding the mark,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “He’s a big strong guy and when he gets it all he can score. Good for him. He played real hard.”
Erskine and the rest of the Caps defense stepped up on the offense in the third period, finally shutting down a resurging Thrashers team that took advantage of another lackluster Caps second period. The Caps came out strong in the first with team captain Alexander Ovechkin notching his 10th goal of the season after Thrashers goalie Chris Mason bobbled the slapper and deflected it into the net behind him. Mike Green then took advantage of a penalty to Atlanta’s Ben Eager, slamming home a slap shot near the point on the power play. The Caps finished the first period strong and it looked as if the Caps were on their way to blowing out the visitors. Continue reading