Saturday, February 9, 2008

Capitals lose game; division lead

Capitals 1, Hurricanes 2

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

Less than 48 hours after taking over first place in the Southeast Division, the Capitals are once again in second place in their division and currently out of the playoff picture, after a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at Verizon Center.

Sometimes a team can lose and there's not really anything for them to say except 'we were outplayed', rather than being able to point to specific areas that needed to be better. That wasn't the case last night for the Capitals, who outshot and outhit Carolina, and can look to two reasons for their loss. The first is relatively simple and one the Capitals couldn't have done much about: running into a hot goaltender in Cam Ward. Despite his less than stellar season totals the young 'Canes netminder had stopped 94% of the shots thrown his way over Carolina's last four games and was again in fine form against Washington, stopping 33 of 34 (97.1%) shots the Capitals got on net.

The second cause the loss can't be blamed on anyone but the Capitals - going 0-7 on powerplays against the league's worst penalty killing unit. Sure, Ward had some big saves, and the Hurricanes' penalty killers certainly didn't look like the league's worst but the Capitals powerplay didn't just fail to produce. It was, frankly, pathetic most of the night as the team couldn't control the puck in the offensive zone and get set up with any regularity and instead would turn the puck over to the 'Canes just over the blue line. All that aside, there's no excuse for going 0-7 on the powerplay against anyone. Period.

The final interesting subplot from last night's game I want to touch on is the Capitals' lone goal scorer, Alexander Semin, who once again took his team off the powerplay with a stupid, selfish and completely unnecessary penalty, leveling a vicious two-handed on Niclas Wallin with less than thirty seconds to go in the third period. I think Semin's in for some discipline from the coaching staff, having only made it through one game without taking his team off a powerplay after being called out by Bruce Boudreau. Given that Semin now has two powerplay goal on the season and has taken his team off the powerplay with unnecessary penalties at least five times, I have a pretty good idea what it could be: either a fine every time Semin costs his team the man advantage, a seat on the pine when the Capitals are on the PP or possibly even a game from the bird's eye view of the press box. And one final thought on the plat to close things out. Could Wallin have been called for interference for holding down Semin in the crease? Sure. Should he have been? Maybe. But Semin's lucky he didn't get a major or even the gate for the way he two-handed Wallin, and even more lucky that Wallin wasn't injured because in my opinion a two or three game suspension could have easily been warranted there.

It could have been worse though. True, the team lost the game, its division lead, Erskine was hurt in his first period fight, Semin's disciplinary issues continued, the team was 0-7 on the powerplay and couldn't get much going offensively, but the guys who looked the most inept last night weren't wearing red, white and blue. They were wearing white and black stripes.

Quick Hits

  • David Steckel is supposed to be a great defensive center and usually he is. But the Andrew Ladd goal isn't the first time the team has conceded a goal because Steckel's been nowhere to be found on the backcheck as an opposing player comes through the slot to pick up a rebound.

  • I'm a Capitals fan though-and-through, but Erik Cole's goal was a thing of beauty.

  • Two penalties on the same play, both stupid, both unnecessary and both in the offensive zone? Well played Mr. Brashear. Well played, indeed.

  • How often do you see an NHL game with 12 powerplays between the two teams yield zero powerplay goals?

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