The Caps, playing the last of four straight games in western Canada, looked it last night. They were dominated possession-wise by the Vancouver Canucks and lost 3-2, in a score not as close as it would indicate. The Caps were outshot 41-19, and the total shots were even worse: 68-42. Alex Ovechkin, who’s on pace for a record number of shots on goal this season, managed just three, despite the Caps having four power plays (and going 0-for-4).
1) Watching these two teams, it was painfully obvious just how poor the Caps defensemen are at clearing their own zone. They aren’t particularly fast, and their breakout passes aren’t particularly accurate. That leads to getting bogged down in the neutral zone and turnovers. It’s magnified when they play a team like Vancouver (or, Vancouver themselves) since the Canucks are so crisp and such good skaters in their own end. John Carlson really should be better than he is at this stage in his career.
2) Michal Neuvirth saved the Caps (Canadian) bacon last night, but he really, really should have had the first one. It was a low-angle, rising snap shot by a not-very-talented Zack Kassian that Neuvy just whiffed on to his glove-side. That said, the Caps allowed 41! shots to the Canucks in Vancouver and lost just 3-2. Did I just make an argument against my own point? Probably. It’s late.
3) The other two goals allowed? Nothing Neuvirth could do on those. Apparently, nothing the Caps top line could (or would) do either. Watch the replays again. I’ll wait. Vancouver had all day in the Caps end on both goals, and the shooters ended up wide open between the circles for high-percentage shots that looked like the Caps were killing a penalty.
4) Speaking of which… Hey, how about that penalty kill unit? They held Vancouver off the sheet in six attempts and now not allowed a goal in their last 439 chances, or something ungodly like that. Imagine where this team would be if the Caps PK unit wasn’t SECOND IN THE NHL at 90.7 percent.
5) Jason Chimera goals in three straight games? Jason Chimera goals in three straight games. Ol’ Stone Hands has five points in the last three games and has eclipsed his season goal total from last year already. His dive and chip ahead to Grabbo for the Caps second goal was a thing a beauty as well. That Chimera-Grabbo-Ward line was doing work again last night. Too bad that’s where the good effort pretty much ended.
The Caps get a few much-needed nights of sleep in their own beds and a couple practices at Kettler before training up to Philly to take on the Flyers Friday night before a three-game homestand, in which I’ll be attending the first two games in person, my first of the season.