The Colorado Avalanche stormed through the Verizon Center Saturday night, routing the Capitals 5-1 and dropping the home team to a 1-4 record. Former Capitals net minder Semyon Varlamov turned away 40 shots against his old team, Alex Tanguay scored twice and 18-year-old Nathan MacKinnon, 2013’s first overall draft pick, scored his first goal in the NHL. Eric Fehr scored the Capitals lone goal.
After a slow start had the Capitals down by a pair going into the second period, Washington responded with what head coach Adam Oates called his team’s “best period of the season.”
The Caps outshot the Avs 19-7 in that period, with every line generating chances. Their momentum unraveled, though, with an untimely too many men on the ice penalty with about four minutes left in the second.
“It was the only mistake we made all period,” Oates said.
That mistake ended up in the back of the Capitals net, completely deflating the team that had dominated the middle frame.
Oates acknowledged that a slower start and too many mistakes resulted in the lopsided loss, but he and some of his players seem to disagree somewhat about why their team is off to another poor start.
“I really don’t know,” Joel Ward said. “We fire pucks, we had some tips – the puck’s just not going in.”
Ward also noted that the Caps have to work on “mentally being prepared and being ready.”
Reliably filter-less Capitals winger Troy Brouwer was less diplomatic in his post-game comments.
“It didn’t look like we had any passion,” he said. “We didn’t get the crowd into it, we made it a boring atmosphere for the fans that were here, and as a result we were flat.”
Brouwer added that there is no easy fix for the Capitals current slump.
“It’s looking at yourself and wanting to win,” he said. “It’s about wanting to work hard, wanting to help your teammates out, wanting to win. That’s all it comes down to. Our talent level’s there, our effort’s not.”
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Brouwer made nearly identical comments about his team’s performance at the beginning of last season. The difference is that last season Oates agreed with him. This year, the Capitals bench boss is quick to dispel the notion that work ethic is an issue.
“There’s moments where we made mistakes, but I didn’t see (a lack of) effort,” Oates said.
He went on to rationalize comments like Brouwer’s.
“I’m sure after the game they’re probably pretty emotional and you guys (the media) come in and obviously the score is lopsided so they’ve got to say something.”
Brouwer did at least agree that there are a few positives to take away from the first five games of the season.
“We’re not panicking,” he said. “We still are able to throw together stints of hard work and sustained pressure, so there is a little glimmer.”
Aside from whatever glimmers the Capitals are able to hold on to, forward Jason Chimera noted that Washington has an entire season to improve and hopefully finish on a hot streak like they did in 2013.
“You’ve got to be one of those teams that no one likes to play,” Chimera said. “Right from Ovi on down (you’ve got to be working hard)…if that happens, no one’s going to stop us because we have too good a team.”
Of course, the Capitals have to give credit to their opponent. The team that finished dead last in the Western Conference last year is off to a 5-0 start, outscoring opponents 18-4 so far this season and averaging less than one goal against per game.
“Everything they do right now is turning to gold,” Oates said. “They’re a good team playing well right now, going on all cylinders.”
If Oates has any shake-ups planned for his team, he’s not tipping his hand just yet, simply saying that the players and coaching staff will likely talk about it on Sunday.
Alex Tanguay opened the scoring to put the Avs up by one at 6:42 of the first period. Matt Duchene, who produces his fair share of pretty goals, rushed down the right side of the ice, worked his way around Karl Alzner and lifted a shot over Michal Neuvirth’s glove side to put Colorado up by a pair at 14:22 of the opening period. Nathan MacKinnon put the Avalanche up by three with his first goal in the NHL at 17:41 of the second period. Tanguay notched his second goal of the night, a short-handed tally early in the third period, slipping a hard-angle shot past Neuvirth to give the Avalanche a 4-0 lead. Eric Fehr finally got the Caps on the board at 2:03 of the third period, but 21 seconds later Jamie McGinn capped off the scoring with a goal off the rush.
The Capitals play the third game of their home stand Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Our passes out there were embarrassing at times. It’s concentration, it’s work ethic, it’s focus – it’s a lot of things. It starts in practice and it continues over into warm-ups; we shoot high on our goalie sometimes when we shouldn’t be and then we’re sloppy during the game. Then we wonder why we are sloppy and can’t make passes or breakout passes. We’ve got to be better, all around.” – Troy Brouwer
“We’re going to be hard-pressed to make the playoffs if we continue on the path that we’re in right now. I think playoffs should be the furthest thing from our minds as of right now.” – Troy Brouwer on the Capitals possible trajectory this season.
The last time the Capitals had 40 shots or more against an opponent was April 23, 2013 when they fired 41 shots in a 5-3 win against Winnipeg.
One player was actually smiling in the locker room after the game. Despite the score, Nate Schmidt was clearly still excited after his NHL debut.
The game’s three stars were 1. Semyon Varlamov, 2. Alex Tanguay and 3. Eric Fehr