Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Caps make it hurt so good

Photo courtesy of Puck Daddy (

Fortunately, I wasn't at last night's 4-2 Capitals loss at the hands of the despicable Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, the H.B.I.C. (Head Blogger In Charge) was, along with friend of the blog K Bizzle. While it's never a good feeling to lose to Philly, especially the way we did last night, games like that are what make a rivalry great and also serve as very important warnings to a team like the Caps to not get to big for their britches just yet.

Last night's loss was just the sort of wake-up call we needed. Firstly, we were so sorely reprimanded for taking shifts/periods/games off. Up 2-0 midway through the second period and cruising, the Caps rested on their laurels a bit too much and were stung for it by a Claude Giroux goal to draw the Flyers to within one. After a series of wasted chances, our defense went to shit in the third frame, Theo lost his confidence after a 2-1 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit in two minutes and before you could blink it was 4-2, Philly. In truth, we're lucky the scoreline didn't end up at 5 or 6-2.

The second thing we learned was that we need to acquire a veteran backup goalie. Like right now. This is no indictment of Jose Theodore, who has played very, very well since being pulled from the Rangers game on Dec. 23. I even thought most of the goals last night weren't his fault, apart from the bizarre fourth goal in which he either dropped his stick or had it kicked out of his hands before flailing awkwardly at Arron Asham's shot.

The problem with Theo is that he's extremely hot and cold. Cold for much of the season before Christmas (maybe inconsistent is the more accurate word here), he has been rock solid in the time since. However, you need your goalie to get hot right in the middle of the playoff swing - and then stay hot through them - for a successful postseason run. I'm worried that the other shoe is going to drop with plenty of time remaining before the playoffs actually start and without Brent Johnson, all we have are two very talented, but very young and inexperienced options. Plus, if Theo got hurt right now, what would we do? Perhaps Varlamov and Neuvirth are ready for a trial by fire, but I would prefer it if there was at least another option for us in case they aren't.

The enduring lesson of the night, though, was that the Caps HAVE TO BECOME MORE DISCIPLINED when it comes to taking silly, lazy and sloppy penalties. Plain and simple, committing nine to ten penalties per game is not going to lead to many wins, especially when those penalties include too-many-men-on-the-ice and delay of game (playing the puck out of the rink in the defensive zone). I know that Semin was unlucky to play it off the ice last night as replays appeared to show the puck come off his stick completely wrong and purely accidentally. But good lord, the Capitals continue to shoot themselves in the foot in this department and one has to wonder how many wind-sprint filled punishment practices it takes to get them to correct it.

All in all, the Caps are still alright. If they are able to learn from these lessons moving forward and continue to beat the teams they're supposed to, then games like this are actually beneficial. But as sweet as this past Sunday's win over Pittsburgh was, it was just as sour to fail to make an enormous statement to the rest of the NHL that the Caps are a legitimate force. Wins over Boston and Detroit this year have already done that; missing an opportunity to dispatch two of our biggest rivals in consecutive home games definitely hurts.


  1. I completely agree, Mr. Jones. Being a Philadelphian, last night's game was the first one I got to watch in a while (I forgot that Sunday's game was televised nationally.) It was definitely a rough game, and a Brent Johnson replacement would be very helpful. And I don't know if they mentioned this on the DC telecast, but in Philly, they pointed out that the reason for the Flyer's success in the game was that our defenders (with the exception of Mike Green), while big, are far too slow. Their speed forwards, like this Giroux guy, were simply able to skate around them too often. I think that a trade for another skill defender, maybe for a Nylander type (has the trade deadline passed?), or the continued progress of Alzner would put us over the edge from good to great.
    That being said, the last time I think I got to watch a full game was the playoffs last year. And the team looks dramatically different. Last year, the Flyers and the Caps looked like two equal teams fighting their guts out to win a playoff series. This year, or in most of this game and from what I've read at least, we look like the far superior team, who just had an off period. Had one of those 3 shorthanded breakaways resulted in a goal in the second period, this game would have been in the bag.
    Point is, this was exciting to watch, and I am really looking forward to the playoffs. I think that this team the way it is, or upgraded slightly at goal or on defense, will go pretty far. How far? I don't know. But I think it is safe to say two things: Farther than they have been in the post-Bondra era. And farther than the Wizards will be going any time soon. And that is something to feel good about.

  2. well said, man. the trade deadline is March 4, so we still might do some wheeling & dealing, but generally we don't need to change that much so we might stand pat as not to disrupt chemistry. but yeah, it's absurd how good this team could be