Photo: John Russell
The weekend hasn’t been kind to the Washington Capitals. Aside from the Leafs, the Caps’ competition in the wild card race all gained ground while the Caps floundered against the Bruins. Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators was a crucial opportunity to stay on pace. And while Nashville had a headlock on Washington during even strength, the Caps managed to summon up some special teams magic to keep the game interesting. Or excruciating, depending on your attitude.
The Capitals got on the board first with a beautiful five-on-five unicorn: Nick Backstrom stole the puck, served it to Mike Green, who found Troy Brouwer alone at the back door. Nashville stuck back 100 seconds later with Patric Hornqvist’s goal following a big rebound off Halak’s chest. Hornqvist wasn’t done, scoring a semi-breakaway late in the first as the Caps momentarily forgot what they’re supposed to do at their own blue line (hint: defense).
The second period was all Nashville, but Halak was halaking like there was no tomorrow. The Caps earned back-to-back power plays and converted the second of them, a frantic backhand by Brouwer in the slot. Shea Weber restored Nashville’s lead nine minutes into the third period with a monster slapshot. Nick Backstrom tied it a few minutes later, converting a power play with a slapshot as the bowels of Caps nation collectively liquefied.
Overtime gave us no decision, so here we go with the…
Perds beat Caps 4-3 (Shootout).
Grabovski – Beagle – Ovechkin
Johansson – Backstrom – Brouwer
Chimera – Fehr – Ward
Penner – Kuznetsov – Wilson
The Caps have been so so bad at even strength and pretty awesome at the power play. We’ve known that since the beginning of October. I assume the coaches know it too. And yet here we are, with less than two weeks left in the season, and the Caps are somehow getting worse. Aside from defensive shallowness, the players aren’t all that bad, but the line decision-makers are plainly inept and the corpus of tactics they employ is infuriating.
But they can still draw penalties. Whatever criticism we offer for Adam Oates, he deserves tons of credit for the Caps being terrifying when a man up.
Then again, power plays are just one small part of the game– and not one you can rely on– either in the playoffs or in pursuit of making it to the playoffs in the first place.
Whatever– I’m sorry for venting. There’s nonsense abound in how Caps players are being coached, but the players themselves continue to excel in every way they can. There’s Troy Brouwer’s career-best season, Tom Wilson shaking off the role he’s been forced to play and becoming a scoring talent, Dmitry Orlov tilting the ice better than anyone else on the team.
Imagine how good those guys are gonna be under whoever the coach is next season.
If Oates called a timeout and told the players to choose their own linemates and play however they want, I genuinely think they'd do better.
— Good Tweet Pete 🌮 (@peterhassett) March 31, 2014
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