For the first time since April of 2008, the Capitals have dropped from first place in the Southeast Division, a division they won by an astounding 38 points last spring. The Atlanta Thrashers are now in first place. With the off-season additions of players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta could be on track to win their first division title since the 06-07 season.
Washington technically fell two spots into third place. The Tampa bay Lightning also won Saturday night putting them into a tie with Washington. Tampa Bay currently holds the tie-breaker over the Caps because they have played two fewer games.
Saturday night's game in Boston continued the trend of slow starts for Washington. They gave up three first period goals and playing on the road could not climb out of the hole. Bruins brick wall Tim Thomas did everything but stand on his head in this game. Thomas stonewalled the Capitals making 25 third period saves and 39 for the game.
Washington didn't record a shot on goal for the first eight minutes and a very soft goal allowed by Caps starter Michael Neurvirth just three and half minutes into the contest had the Caps chasing for the entire first period. Chasing Boston around and committing turnovers. Boston was able to play most of the first 20 minutes inside the Caps blue line and did not fail to cash in on the chances.
Neuvirth made 18 saves on 21 shots but his shaky first period could not be picked up by his team mates.
So what happens next? Head coach Bruce Boudreau's job security is beginning to become more than a whisper by analyst on the national hockey shows.
The numbers inside the eight-game losing streak are alarming. Washington has been outscored 25-9 and has failed to score more than two goals seven times. They have been shut out twice by a combined score of 10-0 and two time MVP and team captain Alex Ovechkin has just four points over this stretch.
During losing streaks coaches must build on every little positive. Every shot, shift and period can be the turning point and the Caps played a solid third period in Boston. The period was something to build on for tomorrow night’s game in Ottawa.
Caps rookie defenseman Karl Alzner said following Saturday’s loss, "We’ve had two decent games in a row and we're getting close to breaking the slump. It's beginning to feel a little better, a little more uppity in the dressing room. We need to get our swagger back, the swagger the Capitals have had the last couple of years."
Decent with this team is not acceptable, nor is playing a little better and Boudreau knows that. Every shot, shift, save and period now become more crucial and not just for something to build on but possibly Boudreau’s job.
If Washington loses to Ottawa, should Boudreau be fired?
The Caps travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators tonight. If Washington can continue to skate and shoot like they did in the third period last night, they should see a better return against Ottawa.
The Senators are 26th in the league in goals allowed with 102. They are also not very good at putting the puck in the net, scoring just 79 times this season., 27th in the league. The Sens are led by 38-year-old Daniel Alfredsson who has 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points this season.
Given the Senators struggles, 3-7 in their last 10, losing a ninth straight would undoubtedly heat up the debate about Boudreau's job security. Wining this game would be huge for Boudreau and the Capitals.
Boudreau said following his team’s loss, "Sometimes you're sitting there and things aren't going well and you're just wishing you could get a break. We haven't been getting them but we'll just persevere and move on."
Ottawa is a break for an offense like Washington's, struggling or not the Caps can get well in a hurry Sunday night. If they fail to take advantage of Ottawa and their struggles then talk of Boudreau's job security may become more than just a heated debate in Washington, it may start to become a reality.