November 20, 2017

Washington Capitals Game 8 Recap: Fleury stifles Caps as Penguins win

 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

After a western Canadian trip that saw a powerhouse of offense, the Washington Capitals failed to topple Marc Andre Fleury and fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1.

Although the first period did not start with a barrage of shots and goals as the previous few games have, the Caps proved they are no one-trick pony with their defense and Braden Holtby showing up tough.

The Penguins were given a golden opportunity with 13:36 in the first when Brooks Orpik received a boarding call. Chandler Stephenson (on a  questionable elbowing) was already in the box. The 5-on-3 chance was for 1:45 and the penalty kill was a hero. The Caps had the puck out of the zone and disrupted the Penguins at every turn. [Read more…]

GAME 18 RE-CAP: Caps Prove Shaky At Leafs; Wretched Road Trip Concludes

It doesn’t matter that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. The Washington Capitals organization and their fans should be

Is Bruce Boudreau back on the hot seat so soon? (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

deeply, deeply concerned about what took place on this week’s three-game road trip, in which each game brought a worse performance than the one before (in all, Washington was outscored 14-3 in the three games against Nashville, Winnipeg, and Toronto) and which concluded with an abysmal 7-1 loss to the understrength Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre Saturday night.

The usual Toronto sellout crowd of 18,819, as well as a continent-wide audience watching on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, saw a game that blows right to the top of the list of worst Washington losses of the season. This one truly had it all: execrable defending, stagnant offense, and more than a pinch of bad luck.

It also had, it must be said, an excellent performance from the Leafs themselves, who jumped on top just 1:39 into the game when Tim Connolly flipped a wrist shot past Tomas Vokoun from the edge of the face-off circle. Washington appeared to restore normal service just 51 seconds later when Brooks Laich’s slap shot took a generous deflection off John-Michael Liles and sailed into the net past Jonas Gustavsson (40 saves) to tie the score at 1-1. But the Leafs carried the play for the rest of the first period, outshooting Washington 16-8 and re-taking the lead with 44 seconds to go before the first intermission as Matt

Frattin took a cross-ice pass from Joe Colborne and fired past Vokoun.

Washington fell completely apart in the second period as the Leafs went to the net more or less at will and had scoring chances in abundance. With Matt Hendricks in the box after being called for slashing just 17 seconds into the period, the Leafs increased their lead to 3-1 as Tyler Bozak banged home a close-range chance after a beautiful set-up by Joffrey Lupul at the 1:18 mark. The score became 4-1 at 5:29 when Lupul and Bozak combined to set up Phil Kessel to tap in his league-leading 14th goal from the edge of the crease.

That was the end of Vokoun’s evening as Michal Neuvirth entered the fray. Not that it mattered, as Dion Phaneuf sent a cross-ice pass to Lupul, who tapped into the open net to make the score 5-1 at 17:12 after the Caps had missed several golden power play chances to cut into their deficit moments earlier.

Lupul’s goal occurred with Nicklas Backstrom sitting in the penalty box after drawing a double-minor for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct. Moments later, John Erskine put the puck over the glass  and drew a delay-of-game penalty. Cody Franson made the score 6-1 with 31 seconds to go as he slammed a point shot past the snapping catching glove of Neuvirth.

The third period was essentially a figure-skating exhibition, but there was time enough for former Capital David Steckel to add the coup de grace with a breakaway goal with 44 seconds left to tick the scoreboard over to a magnificent seven, at least for Toronto fans.

It’s tempting to look for subtly positive signs whenever a team suffers a heavy loss, but there are no positives to take from this particular showing. With the possible exception of the goalscorer Laich, no Capital distinguished themselves in a positive light. The defense was simply not good enough as a unit, with Jeff Schultz particularly responsible for Toronto’s first two goals. Vokoun had to endure the humiliation of skating to the bench in the middle of the second period, but in all honesty, there wasn’t very much he could do about any of the goals.

A win on Monday night against the Pacific Division-leading Coyotes will go some of the way toward relieving whatever pressure is on head coach Bruce Boudreau and his staff, but not completely. Questions will still be asked, and it will still be assumed that the Capitals will only be as good as the players allow themselves to be and not as good as Boudreau  pushes them to be. Saturday night’s loss is just another piece of evidence in support of that theory.

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