Blues 4, Caps 3
It was same song, different verse for the Capitals last night in St. Louis: the Caps (playing without Captain Chris Clark and Tom Poti) fell behind early, battled to get back into the game, scored a late goal to cut the deficit to one and ultimately came up short, falling to 4-6 in the process.
I'm hoping that to some degree this can be chalked up to the guys the Caps were missing - Clark and Poti were out, Alexander Semin left early in the game after re-injuring his ankle and Olaf Kolzig was getting a night off. Maybe it sounds like an excuse; maybe it is, and the Capitals should still beat a team like St. Louis but the reality is that missing your top defenseman in terms of ice time, your captain, your number two scoring threat who potted 38 a year ago and your starting goalie is going to make any team significantly worse, and in the type of close game it was against the Blues those players could be the difference.
There's no doubt this has been a frustrating and disappointing start to the season for the Caps, but it's not the gloom-and-doom scenario some people out there are trying to make it. The team is currently only three points out of a playoff spot. The reality is that the Caps weren't a shoe-in going into the season. They were a borderline playoff team that was going to have to fight until April and hope to make it in by finishing in 6th-8th place in the conference. The team is one win away from being .500 (i.e. if they'd won one more to this point they'd be .500), has only had its intended lineup in for one game and has outplayed its opposition on a whole other than the horrid three game stretch in the very early going (Islanders, Rangers, Buffalo). It's okay to be a bit concerned but it's far from time to press the panic button at this point. If you don't feel better just remember that of the Caps remaining 72 games, 22 are against Atlanta, Tampa and Florida, who are a combined 12-18-1 (even though Tampa is over .500 and trust me, they're not that good). Ahh...that helps doesn't it?
Mike Green looked great, scoring the Caps first two goals, and has been the Caps best overall defenseman this season. I wanted to say this the other day but after his poor performance against Vancouver it seemed like an inappropriate time.
Okay, again, busy weekend so just some observations:
- With Clark out the Caps had Donald Brashear wearing an 'A'.
- Brashear also saw time in front of the net on the powerplay. Hanlon's been stressing getting big bodies in front and I guess Brash became an option for that after Clark was out. It seemed to work - Brash was screening Legace on Green's second goal.
- The checking line looked really good in the offensive zone in the first period. Pettinger, Gordon and Laich seem to have meshed well and it provides further evidence that the checking line should still be effective even with Clark playing with Kozlov and Ovechkin.
- Kozlov looked horrible for the most part, missing passes and great shooting opportunities. That's been his story his whole career - great talent but can't put it all together.
- Johnson look lazy at times. He'd go down into the butterfly and just shuffle around the crease. C'mon Brent, you have to know NHL shooters are good enough to get the puck up high on you.