It’s never fun to watch the Caps lose — especially when it’s a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on national television. The Caps came out hard, but could not handle the Pens’ speed, falling behind two goals in the game’s first ten minutes. The Pens would pull away later in the second and third period, scoring four unanswered goals.
The Caps gave up five even-strength goals. Dmitry Orlov and Brooks Orpik were on the ice for four of the Pens’ six tallies.
“We got exactly what we deserved tonight,” Barry Trotz said after the game.
“I’m not going to let guys off the hook,” Trotz continued. “There’s no excuse for the sloppy play and the lack of execution when the heat was on. We had some guys who were not strong tonight. You can’t do that against a team that’s trending well. They’re probably the hottest team [in the NHL].”
Let’s take a look at the Pens six goals and see what patterns we find.
Caps On The Ice: 6, 14, 65, 88, 92
The play begins well enough. The Caps are forechecking in the Penguins zone. Burakovsky falls down in the corner. Kuznetsov picks up the loose puck up but falls down near the goal. With Justin Williams crashing the net, all three Caps forwards are caught below the goal line (wuh oh) giving the Pens a 3-on-2 before they even got out of their zone.
An odd-man break isn’t the end of the world, especially when you have one of the game’s greatest goaltenders, Braden Holtby. Let Holtby square up to the shooter and see the shot. Just don’t have a breakdown. Don’t be too aggressive. Caps defenseman Mike Weber had a breakdown after being too aggressive. Weber stepped up on Pens defenseman Ian Cole, teasing a hip check. Bad idea.
Cole moves the puck quickly to Tom Kuhnhackl, giving the Pens a two-on-one, which is infinitely worse than a three-on-two. Nate Schmidt confounds the play even more by stepping up on Kuhnhackl. Kuhnhackl makes a great play, doing a 360 before throwing the puck to Bryan Rust streaking down the wing. He scores.
Yuck. Breakdown City.
Caps On The Ice: 9, 10, 26, 43, 44
One minute and twenty-six seconds later, the Pens strike again. The play begins when Tom Wilson falls down (do you notice he falls down a lot too or is that just me?) trying to deliver a big hit to Trevor Daley. Brooks Orpik also steps up at the red line trying to mark Patric Hornqvist. Orpik’s decision is probably too aggressive here. It forces his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, to fetch the puck alone and Orlov’s decision-making in the defensive zone is not his forte. Center Mike Richards rotates down to cover for Orpik. Chaos ensues.
Orlov does not recognize Wilson didn’t get back to support him along the boards. Orlov needs to reverse the puck to Daniel Winnik or chip the puck out of the zone — icing be damned. Instead Orlov holds onto the puck as he’s pressured by Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby. He turns it over. Crosby has a two-on-one with Daley down low against Brooks Orpik. Mike Richards fails to notice the breakdown and collapse. The Pens score.
Caps On The Ice: 9, 14, 65, 88, 92
The Caps managed to fight back tying the game 2-2 late in the period. Then they gave up a back-breaking goal. This play is weird. Dmitry Orlov begins the series of breakdowns by failing to keep the puck in the zone when he pinches in the offensive zone. He whiffs.
That leaves Nate Schmidt in a one-on-one battle with Tom Kuhnhackl, which he loses. Kuhnhackl tosses the puck to Matt Cullen as Justin Williams goes for a big hit. Kuhnhackl spins out of the bodycheck. Boom. Goal.
These types of plays happen. But confounding the play was Dmitry Orlov who was slow getting back.
On Pittsburgh's third goal, Trotz said "one of our D was lazy coming back." Believe that would be Orlov.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) March 21, 2016
And we’re only halfway done.
Caps On The Ice: 9, 44, 65, 90, 92
Three minutes and forty-six seconds into the third period, the Pens scored on the Capitals despite three Caps defenders being back: Dmitry Orlov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Brooks Orpik. There’s a bad switch between Kuznetsov and Orlov at the blue line. Orlov steps up on Kuhnhackl while Kuznetsov lets Matt Cullen skate by him and go in alone on Holtby.
Yikes! This was a tough breakdown by the two Russians, but please notice Orpik. He raises his hands in frustration twice while skating back into the play, potentially showing up the team’s leading scorer and most productive possession defenseman.
Which leads me to the next Penguins goal…
Caps On The Ice: 9, 14, 44, 65, 92
Let’s watch Brooks Orpik gets out-skated by Sidney Crosby.
I call that karma.
This goal chases Braden Holtby who looked like he needed a hug and a strong drink when he skated to the bench.
Caps On The Ice: 2, 10, 43, 44
Finally, Justin Schultz completed the Penguins’ hockey touchdown, scoring on a one-timer to the top corner of the net.
A few takeaways:
Sunday’s game sucked, but it’s not the end of the world. The Caps have problems, which Peter will elaborate more on this week, but they still have 19 more standings points than the Penguins.
SIX STRAIGHT WINS.
SECOND PLACE IN THE METRO.
It’s good to be us. pic.twitter.com/H1uJU4vNxX
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 21, 2016
Enjoy second place!
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