Probably the most anticipated matchup of the season came through town. It's no secret that the Winnipeg Jets are the main team that stands in the way of the Caps making the playoffs this year. And there even seems to be a budding rivalry building between the two teams. Buffalo might be in the hunt as well, but it's the Jets that had to be shot down tonight...and could have been. If only.
Well things started out great anyway, with a 3-0 lead. And who better to kick it all off than speedy, hard-working Jason Chimera. Better still that it was continued by the Captain. Happy me as I personally would like nothing more than to see the Winnipeggers go home empty handed. Their fans and their media have, for the most part, shamefully approached this season with a sense of entitlement. It would have been nice to kill their hopes. Again, if only.
Alas, as they are wont to doing, the Caps lost focus. A Jeff Halpern turnover led to the first Jet goal by Ben Maxwell. Just over a minute later, Bryan Little pulled the Jets within one. And just like that there was cause to worry. Ample cause as it turned out.
Because instead of putting their foot back on the gas and going after this team, they sat back. So much so to the point of NOT GETTING A SHOT ON GOAL UNTIL MORE THAN 15 MINUTES INTO THE THIRD PERIOD. I hope my putting that all in capital letters drives the point home. Because that approach was simply pathetic. As I type this I can hear Craig Laughlin lambasting the team for a lack of aggression. Bingo. I don't know if they just ran out of gas, lost the will to play or what happened. Whatever happened it is not the mark of a hungry team.
Brooks Laich did what he could to wake his mates up by getting into a fight with the Jets' Jim Slater shortly after the second goal. You would have though that would have woke them up. Nope.
More than any of the four they ended up giving up, the game tying goal signified how this game was going to go. Nobody put a body on Spencer Machacek as he approached the goal. Jeff Schultz was standing between Machacek and the goal. Schultz, as he always does, thought putting his stick in the way would be enough. Once again, it wasn't. Tie game.
Kinda lends itself to an old song...when a body meets a body coming at the net, you won't have the puck behind you, sitting in the net.
Still, there was overtime and we had a (somewhat) healthy Alex Semin back--our best player four-on-four. But yet again, they sat back as if they were simply waiting for the shootout. No aggression, not even a hint of willingness to go after the win. Did they not learn from the last game against this team? I counted and it was on the Jets' fifth (yes I said fifth) scoring chance midway through the extra period where Tim Stapleton, perhaps the Jets best player, put away the game winner.
Mike Knuble had a couple of golden opportunities to put away another goal and just barely missed both times. In what appears to be the theme of this article.....if only.
The officiating was just terrible all over the place. Ridiculously quick whistles, questionable penalties, and blatant missed calls--the Tanner Glass covering the puck non call leaps to mind. Probably the worst I've seen all year and that's saying something.
The last guy that should be blamed in any of this in Michal Neuvirth. He made 38 saves, some of which he had no idea how he even made. His team simply deserted him. If he were a wife suing for alimony he'd have one hell of a case.
I will continue to be unimpressed with Marcus Johansson. With a minus 3 on the night, he gets the Yuk award for play that makes me sick. His play is just not consistent enough to merit a roster spot. Gets knocked off the puck far too easy and is the poorest fit in Dale Hunter's system. If there were more quality centers to go around, he would be riding the bus to Chocolate City now. I now pronounce you....a bust.
Surprisingly enough, Dennis Wideman didn't embarrass himself tonight. Unfortunately, his defensive mates John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Jeff Schultz did. Want to know something sad? Those last three names are all former first round picks. And this whole year they certainly haven't played like it.
Rounding out the D-corps, Mike Green didn't have a bad night. But unfortunately he also didn't have a good night. And that isn't going to cut it, not with the postseason on the line.
This Caps team had a chance to bury a competing team and help solidify a playoff spot for themselves. Instead they did the exact opposite. I said before that this team may have found its identity. Well if they looked in the mirror now, they would probably not like what they see. Unfortunately, it's far too late to change. Even more unfortunately, it's probably cost them the season and the playoffs. You do not blow a three goal lead when it's this important. The twenty men in red forgot that tonight. They should be ashamed of themselves because once again, I sure as hell am.