December 16, 2019

Washington Capitals Game 63 Recap: Caps play poorly in loss to Canes

By trading Andrej Sekera and Jiri Tlusty on Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes organization signaled to the NHL that they were waving the white flag on the season. Apparently, the team didn’t get the memo because the Hurricanes looked like anything but a defeated team in their 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Friday.

The last place Hurricanes, with backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, proved to be too much for the sliding Capitals who have gone without a point in three straight games for only the second time this season.

Starting slowly has become a bad habit for the Caps and, initially, it appeared things may be different on Friday. Very early in the game, Alex Ovechkin ringed a wrister off the post after a nice give-and-go play set up him up right in the slot.

It was all downhill from there.

Brett Bellemore and Jeff Skinner scored for the Hurricanes with Nathan Gerbe adding the exclamation point with an empty netter. Khudobin stood tall in net, turning aside 28 shots for his first shutout of the season.

The Capitals will have one more game before the trade deadline as they return home on Sunday to host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

  • Carolina is usually a friendly place to play for the Caps as they had won five-straight in Raleigh and nine of their last 11. Unfortunately, that streak was broken on Friday.
  • As bad as the Caps played, they were also unlucky. Ovechkin and Jason Chimera both hit the post in the first period and Matt Niskanen again struck iron in the third halting a comeback bid.
  • A troubling pattern for the Caps in their current skid is starting slowly and this game was no different. After Ovechkin’s early chance, the Caps were on their heels for the majority of the first period. After 20 minutes, they registered only four shots, took two penalties and gave up a 1-0 lead. When you are in a losing streak, good starts are critical. Giving up an early lead gets in the players’ heads. They begin to think “here we go again” and their play suffers. They must play better from the puck drop.
  • It was a typical game for Alex Semin who showed flashes of brilliance in what was largely an unproductive game. He drew an early penalty from Brooks Orpik and had three shots on goal for the night, but he also took a penalty in the second period for diving in a performance that would make Nicholas Cage cringe.
  • Tom Wilson had another rough game with a dumb penalty in the first period, a fight in the second and zero shots on goal. Wilson needs to learn that he can have an impact on a game in other ways than just fighting and big hits, but it’s not all his fault. Apart from a few random appearances on the top line, Wilson has been largely relegated to the fourth line by both Barry Trotz and Adam Oates last season. The fourth line and the top line both have very different roles are are used in different situations. If you only play Wilson on the fourth line, then you can’t blame him for acting like a fourth-line player. When the Capitals drafted him in the first round in 2012, the team saw potential for him to be a major contributor and not just a fourth-line agitator. Trotz needs to take him off the fourth line, give him more responsibility and tell him to make an impact with his play and not just his fists. I’m not saying he can’t be an agitator, I’m saying the team didn’t draft him in the first round just to fight and they certainly didn’t draft him to take stupid penalties.
  • While we are on the subject of young players on the bottom line, Andre Burakovsky found himself on the fourth line to start the game after being a healthy scratch Wednesday against Pittsburgh. Marcus Johansson started on the top line. While Johansson may make more sense than Jay Beagle, Trotz’s aversion to keeping Burakovsky on the top line seems baffling at this point. Burakovsky looks like the best option on the top line and there are numbers to support that. Is Trotz looking too far ahead and thinking that he does not want a rookie on the top line in the playoffs? Whatever is keeping Trotz from putting out what looks to be the team’s optimal top line is frustratingly puzzling and it seems like the bench boss may be overthinking when it comes to his lineup.
  • With three-straight lackluster losses, will that force Brain MacLellan’s into making a trade before the deadline? As the Caps are holding onto a comfortable lead for the top wild card spot and there are few prime targets available, it seemed likely that the team would stand pat. Now it looks like the Caps may need some kind of move just to wake themselves up. Sunday’s game against Toronto is the team’s last before Monday’s deadline.
About J.J. Regan

J.J. Regan is a contributor to District Sports Page. He also is a college football and NHL blogger for CSNwashington.com and CSNbaltimore.com and has a master's degree in interactive journalism from American University. Regan follows all DC sports but focuses mainly on the the Caps and college football. You can view his online portfolio at regansports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

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