Trouble Brewing in D.C., Again

The Washington Capitals lost 4-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on home ice Friday night, but at least they played well for one period. Sadly, that seems to be the new benchmark of expectations for the Caps.

The Canucks, who played the Rangers in New York the night before, were in complete control through the first two periods. By any measure, be it shot totals, zone time or the 3-1 score there was no doubt who the better team was.

Perhaps Mike Knuble delivered another inspiring rant in the second intermission, or maybe the Canucks simply lost their legs. The Caps held them to just six shots in the third after allowing 29 the first two periods. They even cut the lead to 3-2 and were close to earning a point on the evening.

In the end, two periods of timid, sluggish played followed by one good stanza may be enough to earn a point against the Florida Panthers. It’s not good enough against a team like Vancouver.

The loss came on the heels of an all-out embaressment in Tampa Bay in which the Caps let their division rivals skate away with a 3-0 laughter which wasn’t even that close. Tonight’s effort was a slight improvement over the stinkers in Miami and Tampa, but that’s not saying much.

If the level of play against Vancouver is the new standard then it’s a sad state of affairs in the nation’s capital and a product of just how far the bar has dropped.

On Thursday owner Ted Leonsis offered up a strange excuse for the team’s disappointing play – the Caps are subconsciously pacing themselves for the post-season.

That’s one theory. Here’s another – maybe the Caps, at least as presently constructed. just aren’t that good.

Odds and Ends:

– More on the Ted Leonsis comments – it’s somewhat disconcerting and just plain odd to hear him justify the effort against the Lightning. Maybe it reeks of desperation, panic, fatalism or a combination thereof. Either way, it doesn’t pass the smell test. There’s no way, in having witnessed the locker room after games and watched 24/7, that anyone with half a brain can possibly believe this team is content to lose games like this.

– Marcus Johansson has been the best Caps forward on the ice for two of the last three games. Tonight he scored a goal to bring his team within striking distance in the third and drew a penalty in the second through hard work. A lot of things are going wrong for the Capitals, but Johansson, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and the young goalies remain bright spots.

– This may have been Nicklas Backstrom’s best game in six weeks. 19-of-24 in the faceoff dot, an assist and five shots on goal. That’s more like it.

– Then there’s Alex Ovechkin who was minus-1 on the night with a minor penalty taken. His line for January? Six games, one goal, two assists, a minus-3 rating and two minor penalties taken.

– Dear Caps fans,

Can we lose the “who cares!” chant after an opponent scores a goal to take a lead?

Signed,

Everyone

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