Washington Capitals Fall To Phoenix Coyotes: Same Old Issues

Alan Zlotorzynski@@zlotsportsCorrespondent IIIFebruary 15, 2011

Ovechkin and Caps fall again
Ovechkin and Caps fall againChristian Petersen/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals continue to make excuses and seem to remain content with out-playing or out-shooting the competition and losing. Scoring just two goals or less in 27 of 57 games this season, the Capitals' once high powered offense has become boring and predictable this season. 

Last night the Capitals lost their third straight game in regulation and seventh game in a row to a Western Conference opponent, as the Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Capitals 3-2 in a game that saw Washington out-shoot Phoenix 31-18.

The loss dropped the Caps to sixth in the Eastern Conference and if the Tampa Bay Lightning wins tonight, the Caps will trail the Southeast leaders by seven points. Washington remains four points ahead of the Rangers and six ahead of Carolina.

Averaging just 2.20 goals per game over their last 30 contests, the Capitals seem satisfied with just making progress. With just 23 games remaining, Washington needs to start converting shots to goals and power play chances to power play conversions or the Caps could miss the playoffs.

The "we are not getting it done" excuses continue to pour in from head coach Bruce Boudreau and his team. Following last night's loss, Boudreau said, "They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league and that’s what happens, I thought we had good flow in the second period. We out-shot them 17-6. The first period I thought it was like we usually end up doing, they don’t get much, we don’t get much. It’s a feeling out process.”

Like we usually end up doing? We don’t get much; it's a feeling out process? Come on Bruce, how about changing it up, coach?  How about, for once, jumping on a team on the road when they cannot seem to get going in their own building?

Boudreau and his team are beginning to sound like a broken record, even comical at times. Matt Bradley, who scored a goal last night, gave this take on his team's performance: “I thought in the third period we had a lot of chances,” says Bradley, “but that’s been the story lately, chances, and no goals. It’s not good or bad, it’s not getting the job done. We have to figure out a way to get more goals.”

Shall we see how many ways one team can say we need to score more goals?  Let's hear how team captain Alex Ovechkin spins it: "We had really good chances but we didn't score, when you play well and lose it's going to look like you didn't play well. We just have to continue doing what we’re doing on the power play."

Continue what we are doing on the power play? REALLY!—Because it all seems to be working so well for the Caps. Firing another oh-fer performance last night (0-for-5), Washington is now 3-for-43 (7%) over their last 14 games and have failed to score a goal in their last 15 extra man advantages.

The Caps were even fortunate enough to have received the first three power plays of the game, a rare event when playing on the road.

"We were moving it around and we looked like a power play," said Boudreau, who has made special teams a point of emphasis in practice. "I thought for sure we were going to score a couple of goals on it. Sometimes, it's not meant to be."

Apparently, neither is winning a Stanley Cup in Washington DC. It pumps me up as a Caps fan to know that our power plays is being judged on appearance and not production. When or if Boudreau is fired, which is hopefully soon, I am going to be sure to write—sorry coach, like your power play—it just was not meant to be for you behind the Caps' bench.

Playing the first of a season-long five-game road trip, the Caps played well in spurts and got decent pressure on Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov held Washington in check and made several point blank saves, keeping the Coyotes in the game and allowing them the opportunity to win their fifth straight.

The Coyotes took sole possession of first place from the Dallas Stars in the NHL's Pacific division with the win. No other team other than Dallas has been in first place since November 24th, and the Coyotes have not held the top spot in their division since February of 2000.

Many players will tell you that sometimes it is the lucky goals that jumpstart a team and turn offensive draughts around. Washington certainly had an opportunity to be one of those teams following their first goal of the evening last night.

Washington's Marcus Johansson, trying to make something happen, skated the puck in behind Bryzgalov.  Looking for help in front of the net, Johansson centered a pass. His pass hit the Coyotes' Martin Hanzal and deflected over Bryzgalov to put the Caps ahead 1-0 almost halfway through the second period.

Apparently not understanding the concept of a gift goal or the old proverb "Never look a gift horse in the mouth", Washington would allow Hanzal to make up for his blunder just 49 seconds later.

On the same shift, things evened out and Hanzal was the recipient of a good bounce. Radim Vrbata skated into the Caps' zone and tried to center a pass to Ray Whitney.  The pass tipped off the stick of Whitney but landed right on Hanzal's, who shoved the puck past Caps starting goalie Michael Neuvirth, tying the game.

Washington's Dave Steckel had his back to Hanzal in front of the Caps net rendering him and any attempt to collect the loose puck useless. Vrbata skated from his own zone and past several Caps defenders and into the Caps' zone without being touched at the blue line. 

In contrast, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were met on numerous occasions at the blue line by Coyote defenders. They simply got in their way slowing the play down. This took away any chance the Caps had in allowing something to develop.

Phoenix received their first power play chance of the night with just under four minutes remaining in the second period. Vrbata and Whitney would again factor in the goal. After a failed clearing attempt by Brooks Laich, Shane Doan found Whitney who found Vrbata standing in the middle slot. Vrbata wristed the shot past Neuvirth giving Phoenix the 2-1 lead.

Now it appears that even the opposing coach is mocking the Caps' power play. Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said. "After two periods, they had 13 shots on the power play and we had one, and they had zero goals and we had one."

For the second straight game, the Caps allowed a third period two-on-one goal, this one scored by Vernon Fiddler after he blew right past John Erskine as he and teammate Scott Upshall skated down ice for the break. Fiddler buried Upshall’s return pass at the 4:24 mark and the Coyotes had a 3-1 lead.

The 30-year-old Erskine looked like a 20-year-old rookie as he simply overcommitted to playing the man. Erskine went for the all-or-nothing check and missed, leaving forward Mattheau Perreault all alone with Neuvirth to try to stop the break.

The Caps would get to within one goal after Matt Bradley wristed a Steckel pass over the glove of Bryzgalov. Washington continued to push the play but after a very ill-advised penalty by Nicklas Backstrom, the evening would essentially be over.

Backstrom high-sticked former Capital Eric Belanger, cutting his cheek and collecting a four minute penalty in the process. This put his team down a man for the remaining 2:26 left in the game.

Keith Jones of the Versus Network called the Capitals a boring team to watch and after last year a disappointment as well. The next time you watch the Caps with a friend on TV here is a way you can spruce the evening up.

Each of you grab your favorite adult beverage and every time you hear the following phrases come out of the analyst’s mouth during A Capitals telecast you and your friend must take a drink. You decide which phrases call for how many drinks but here they are.

The following are guaranteed to be heard at least two to three times an evening and sometimes a period: Ovechkin shoots wide; Capitals win the draw  (see they're not all bad); Varlamov makes a great save; the Capitals fail to convert with the extra man advantage; the Capitals kill another power play; Mike Green is down behind the play; Backstrom is off sides; Boudreau is furious behind the bench; and finally, Jason chimera was on the ice for the (fill in blank with team)'s last goal.

If you have a few more phrases, feel free to include them, however if you had a long day and want to have a few adult beverages be sure NOT to include a phrase with Alexander Semin’s name. If you do, you may never actually get to drink as it will most likely sit and get warm.

The Capitals continue their five game trip with games on Wednesday and Thursday in Anaheim and San Jose.


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