December 20, 2014

Caps Quick Take: Game 5 vs. Avalanche

Much like last season, the Washington Capitals aren’t getting out of the gate very quickly. “Like Groundhog Day,” as Troy Brouwer put it in his post-game comments. Following a dispiriting 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche and former netminder Semyon Varlamov, the Capitals find themselves at 1-4-0 and looking up at the rest of the Metropolitan Division. Well, along with Philadelphia, the Rangers and the Devils, all of whom have one or zero wins to their credit. Yes, it’s early. No, it’s not time to “panic.” But if the Caps don’t get things sorted out quickly it could be a long, cold winter.

1) What in the world was John Carlson doing on Colorado’s first goal of the game? If you answered: cruising in no-man’s land, crossing up his goalie and redirecting what should have been an easy save, you get a gold star. Carlson stopped skating the moment he backed over the blue line and took a single cross-over step to go in the general direction of Alex Tanguay, whose little wrister was completely innocent until Carlson made a half-hearted effort to reach for it instead of, you know, play defense.

2) After a nearly one-minute offensive-zone domination by Colorado on the power play, the Caps finally stopped skating and allowed 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Nathan McKinnon to drift into the slot and shoot uncontested off a feed from Peter Stastny. This is the third rookie the Capitals have allowed to score their first NHL goals in just five games this season. McKinnon did a loop around Steve Oleksy, who was just hanging around the top of the paint, and the rookie found the soft spot in the box and finished. It was a heady play by a naturally gifted scorer.

3) Tanguay’s second goal — Colorado’s fourth of the night — was all on Michal Neuvirth. Granted, Tanguay was unchecked along the goal line, but Neuvirth can’t allow the puck to slip in short-side there. It was just a lack of focus and attention. This time, it was Nick Backstrom that couldn’t get over to help out after Brouwer failed to tie up Stastny behind the goal. Oh, and Colorado was short-handed on the play.

4) Speaking of Brouwer, he was the most vocal of the Capitals following the loss, criticizing his teammates for their lack of passion, work ethic and will to win. After their fifth game of the season. “Didn’t look like we had any passion in our game tonight,” Brouwer said. “We didn’t get the crowd into it. We made it a boring atmosphere for the fans that were here and as a result, we were flat. It’s looking at yourself and wanting to win. It’s about wanting to work hard, wanting to help your teammates out, wanting to win. That’s all it comes down to. Our talent level is there. Our effort’s not.”

5) Something positive? You say would want the silver lining in this one? Eric Fehr’s line played pretty well and their hard work paid off in the third period with the Caps lone goal of the night. Fehr, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward were the only Caps with a “plus” next to their names after this one. Left-handed D-man Nate Schmidt made his NHL debut and did not look out of place. Alex Urbom tied Tom Wilson for team lead in hits with four.

NEXT GAME: Monday at 7:00 pm against Edmonton Oilers.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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