With Injures Mounting, Caps Need to Play Beyond Talent Level
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More than any other answer, when I asked fans a couple weeks ago what they considered the major weakness of the then still surging Caps to be, I heard consistency and third period play mentioned the most. We saw those problems manifest themselves in the most hurtful of ways last night in a 4-3 overtime loss, as a once wonderful night featuring the first ever NHL goal for Jay Beagle and a 3-1 lead going into the third period turned into a travesty of an NHL game. It's not a competition when only one team is competing.
The Washington Capitals in that third period were not competing against the Ottawa Senators; they were desperately just trying to keep up, getting out-shot 18-3. You might be unhappy that the Capitals gave up two goals in the third, but without a number of highway robberies in front by Semyon Varlamov, the Caps never would have even made it to the end of regulation while still tied.
“They wanted it more, we take three dumb penalties and we laid our poor goalie out to dry,” said Bruce Boudreau and that’s all you really need to know about how the Capitals lost this game. “This was a collapse by twenty guys, there is no other way to sugarcoat it. We had total control after two, they didn’t even want to be part of the game --it looked like they wanted to go home,” continued Boudreau in the press conference afterwards. No excuses here, or talk of injures at least from our coach. That’s at least good to see. (Click here to see Bruce's postgame press conference.)
What isn’t good to see of course is this team so far showing much less resilience then last year when 8-9 regulars were out of the line and the Caps still managed to be just under .500 during that stretch. That is a number far better than the 0-1-2 marker the Caps have put up with 4-6 regulars out of the lineup. Yes, it’ true that the Capitals have played three games in four nights, but the rest of the NHL has to deal with that too and you can be darn sure the Caps aren’t the only one’s here dealing with an injury problems. Are we tried? Is Alexander Ovechkin at 100%? Or are we just feeling sorry for ourselves? Whatever the problem is, the Caps need to get over it and playing a consistent and 60 minute game means guys need to make sure they are doing it at both ends.
And who isn’t playing well at both ends? Well although I am a huge fan of Mike Green, I am forced to call him out here. First, a brief foreword of support before I launch into my criticism.
While guys like Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin truly make us marvel not only with their raw offensive ability, but also their power of deduction in knowing the passing lanes to make plays work, when Green is on you truly have an X-factor player that can take the Capitals to the next level. Be it from up-front or even from the back line, now opponents have to be at full awareness to try to defend not only the forwards receiving a pass in the neutral zone, but from the guy in Green who starts the rush all the way from the Capitals zone. And as I watched last night, Green’s strides into the Senators zone and his decision making during the power-play just looked so much crisper then at the beginning of the year.
His defense? Well that’s another story, as Green was responsible for playing a bit to far up in overtime and allowing the Senators to have two consecutive two-on-one chances in overtime. On the first time, Varlamov sprawled out to make a fantastic save on Jason Spezza, but you only got lucky for so long and next time Ottawa came down the ice, Mike Fisher made the Capitals pay. With such a beat up backline, at this point more than ever we can’t afford to see Green making those mistakes.
And it isn’t just Green but also Ovechkin, Tomas Fleischmann and even Brooks Laich who need to noticeably pick their games up in light of these injuries. For as it stands now, bad luck is certainly beginning to rear it’s ugly head against the Caps, with injures to Alexander Semin, Tom Poti, Mike Knuble, Milan Jurcina, Boyd Gordon, Shaone Morrison and the ever gritty Quintin Laing. It may not yet be a M.A.S.H. unit in the Capitals locker room, but those are meaningful enough injures to force he Capitals for the first time to have to rise above the circumstances and play beyond their talent level. That type of “workmanlike” effort hopefully starts this Wednesday against Buffalo.
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