Washington's Losing Streak Result of Struggling Defense

Tucker WarnerContributor IMay 10, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MAY 06:  Defenseman Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on May 6, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Before Round Two of the 2009 NHL playoffs, I predicted the Capitals would steamroll the Penguins and their lack of defense.

Boy, was I wrong.

As a matter of fact, it was the other way around.

Washington's current three-game losing streak has been caused mainly by a defensive struggle.  That is to say, their defense has been flat out blowing it for the team.

Two of Pittsburgh's game-winning goals have been caused by deflections off Washington's own defensemen.  Both of these deflections occurred in overtime.  Game Three's game-winning-goal, a slap shot off the stick of Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, ricocheted off Shaone Morrisonn's left knee and went past a helpless Simeon Varlamov.  The clincher of Game Five bounced off a diving Tom Poti and into the net. 

A little more D on both of those and we might be talking about the Capitals' gameplan for the Eastern Conference Finals.

There's been a few times where Varlamov has made a great stop on an odd-man rush, the puck is left in the slot by the Caps defensemen, who seem to think that the play stops after Varlamov makes a save, and a Penguin will get off a wide-open shot.

There's been a few times where two, sometimes three Caps defensemen will leave the slot wide open to go after the guy with the puck in the corner.  A good pass and there's another wide-open shot.

Luckily for the Capitals, there's been two things keeping them in the playoffs: their offense, and rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov.  Without those two, Washington wouldn't even be in the Second Round, and the Penguins would be playing the Carolina Hurricanes instead.