Well, here we are again. Another back end of two games in two nights. The result is one we've seen all season--a loss in regulation. I swear I could take an earlier post and paste it here and it would have the same effect. In fact I'm pretty much going to do just that--mail it in. Because that's what the Caps did last night. With the exception of Brooks Laich.
Yes I know that technically they outshot the Lightning, but only by one shot. I also know that Alex Ovechkin hit the post. Woulda shoulda coulda...this getting so old it's making me sick.
Goat of the game: Matt Hendricks. His ill-advised cross-ice pass at the point was intercepted by Steven Stamkos. The man already had a 2-on-1 chance minutes earlier, what do you think was going to happen? Exactly what happened was that Stamkos potted his 40th goal. This happens to be his third straight season of at least 40 goals. No surprise there. Even less surprising was the fact that the Caps never fully recovered from the mistake.
Look, I hate the scheduling too. It sucks that they have to play so many back-to-back games. But when you're in that part of the season where every game is make-or-break, the rest of the league is not going to take pity on you. Look at Chicago--they lost nine games in a row and they've still managed to stay involved in the playoff hunt.
The power play contributed what they always contribute--nothing. This was still another game they had a chance to make the difference and once again failed to get the job done. But then, it's hard to score when you take only one shot in four minutes of power play time. I don't know about you, but that to me is the definition of pathetic.
On the other side of the special teams, the penalty kill went a perfect four-for-four. That in of itself is a pretty good effort. Although why the Lightning's power play percentage is only 13% this year with a guy like Stamkos in the lineup is a bit mind boggling, but I digress. My problem with all this is the type of fouls that were committed. Brooks Laich was called for interference and Mike Green was called for tripping. These are restraining fouls and can be considered "necessary" penalties; the kind that prevent scoring chances.
But the next two, both of which took place in the third period, were stick fouls. Specifically a high-sticking call on Alexander Semin, and a slash called on Marcus Johansson. These are undisciplined penalties that impacted the Caps' ability to mount a comeback in a crucial point of the game. This is why I'm calling out the team's effort, because the little things have to be done right. And you don't take these kinds of calls when your team is trailing.
Although, between you and me, I think Semin can be forgiven for high-sticking Martin St. Louis. It's tough not to high-stick a guy who maybe tops out at 5' 9" while in skates.
Marcus Johansson continues to look lost out there. I am astounded that this guy was actually a first round pick, because he's been playing like a third-rounder at best. I thought his miss against San Jose was a one-time thing, but he managed another last night. I've never been a big fan of his, but like it or not he is the de facto Number 1 Center. Which means either he has to get better, or the team must upgrade. Count on neither one of these happening. Unless GMGM gets a wild hair and makes a trade. But what would we have to give up?
And for gosh sakes, do NOT get me started on the Jeff Carter rumors. The man is definitely a quitter, and it's looking like we have enough of those on the roster already. You mark my words, whoever gets stuck with him and that ridiculous contract of his will regret it. However, there looks to be something possible involving a different center from the Columbus Blue Jackets that might be at least somewhat serviceable. Stay tuned.
I suppose the one bit of good news was that Mike Green finally made it back into the lineup last night. As is the custom, the bench bosses made it easier on him by dressing seven defensemen, reducing his work load. He made a minimal impact on the game, save for his aforementioned penalty. He was even credited with one blocked shot and one hit, but still needs a game or two to get back into form. Still, it's great to see him back in a uniform. I'm just hoping it lasts more than a few games this time.
So here we are again, the NHL's most consistently inconsistent team seems stuck in neutral with its collective foot on the gas pedal going exactly nowhere. Much more of this and there will be questions that need to be answered right away. And the one nobody wants to hear just yet is this: do you retool this team or blow it up and rebuild? The closer we get to the trade deadline, the clearer the picture will be. Assuming the Caps can't get it in gear, I'm leaning towards a rebuild. Clearly what they have now is not working.
Master of the obvious am I, this I know. But then we have yet to witness a real solution to these problems, have we? And we're still waiting.......