For those who decided to spend Saturday evening tuning in to the Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres matchup, sorry for your loss of time. Buffalo beat Washington 5-1, giving the Capitals two losses in a row, to match their previous two game winning streak.
Going into tonight’s matchup, most hockey experts and Caps fans saw this as an opportunity for Washington to get right and get some confidence following yesterday’s beat down from the New York Rangers. The Sabres were down nine regulars and had to pilfer their AHL affiliate Rochester for healthy bodies. Notable scratches included, G Ryan Miller, F Drew Stafford and stud D-Man Robyn Regehr.
Earlier in the day, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau warned against the spark that Washington would face tonight, ” In the short term it doesn’t affect a team as much because young guys tend to play harder and better than they really are when they first come up.”
Rookie Zack Kassian picked up his first NHL goal in the 2nd period. Kassian gathered the puck on the right wing off a pass and beat G Tomas Vokoun for a softie through the 5-hole only 26 seconds after Jason Chimera scored on a penalty shot for Washngton’s only goal of the game.
Another Rookie Luke Adam recorded two goals bringing his total up to eight and firmly planting himself into the early Calder Cup race. Only Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Phliadelphia Flyer’s Matt Read have more scoring tallies.
Overall, the Caps looked disconnected from team play and good passing. As Bruce Boudreau has said many times recently, Washington also looked like they were, “feeling sorry for themselves” once they got down. They failed to challenge G Jhonas Enroth with shots and when they did the young Swede did a good job not giving up any rebounds.
Roman Hamrlik saw his ice time decrease as the game went on and Captain Alexander Ovechkin finished minus-4 along with Nicklas Backstrom.
For Ovechkin, the game started innocently enough as fans saw a focus on short shifts and getting the puck deep instead of going 1 on 1 or 1 on 2.
Early in the first period, Ovechkin laid a punishing hit on one of the Sabre’s rookies, which seemed promising. In the end though, Ovechkin’s line didn’t generate any opportunities off the fore-check, negating any purpose to Ovechkin’s dumps. Backstrom took over Alex’s role as a turnover machine forcing the puck into traffic and coach Boudreau had to put Brooks Laich on that line to try and create some chemistry.
Washington got no spark from their bottom lines and gave up another short handed goal. They lead the league in that department and haven’t made anyone pay for taking penalties.
While it’s WAY too early in the season to talk trade or head coach firing, the team’s play of late surely does not sit well with GM Gearge McPhee or owner Ted Leonsis. The Washington fan base sells out Verizon Center every night and the Washington media is one of the most savvy and relentless in the country. Just ask the Redskins who draw a crowd despite consecutive losing seasons. Needless to say, the Caps struggles are not going unnoticed.
Bruce Boudreau can only bench so many players for bad play before he loses clout in the locker room. The sad thing is, the way this team is playing can’t possibly be his fault. They are making bad decisions, not moving their feet and giving up short handed goals. Their Captain and the veterans on the team need to take a long hard look at themselves and right the ship before the improved Eastern Conference leaves them behind to grasp only a low playoff seed.
With Sidney Crosby back and a matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Capitals looming next week, one can only hope a big game against their rivals lights a spark or it could be long December after a losing November.
Follow Charlie Passero on Twitter @CAnthonyPassero