Feb 5 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Comcast Sports Network
Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network
Toronto Maple Leafs (4-5-0)
Washington Capitals (2-6-1)
Washington closes out a three-game homestand on Tuesday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs make the first of their two visits to Verizon Center this season. The Leafs toppled the Caps 3-2 last week in Toronto, a game in which Washington led 2-1 after 40 minutes of play.
The Capitals played their first nine games of the abbreviated 2012-13 season against nine different opponents. Tuesday’s game against Toronto marks the first time the Caps will have seen a foe twice.
In Friday’s homestand opener, the Caps put together a strong 60-minute effort and earned a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. On Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps were even with the Pens at 2-2 early in the second. But Pittsburgh scored three goals on three consecutive shots on Caps netminder Braden Holtby in the middle of the middle stanza, sending Washington to a 6-3 setback.
Washington didn’t play as poorly as the score would indicate, and that’s been the case a few times this season.
“The last game, we didn’t play that bad,” says Caps left wing Jason Chimera. “It looked worse on the scoresheet than it really was in the game. I think we outchanced them overall and most of the game we were in their end. It was one of those games that you look back and you say, ‘How did it get [to] that score?’ We played pretty well, we’ve just got to take some good things out of it.”
Aside from a few minutes here and a few minutes there, the Caps and coach Adam Oates have been happy with they way they’ve played for the last half-dozen contests. But the Caps are just 2-3-1 in those games, and it seems that whenever mistakes are made, the puck ends up in the back of the Washington net.
“The team is playing correct hockey,” says Oates. “Yeah, there are mistakes and we try to fix mistakes everyday. But the team is playing correct.”
A few uneven minutes of hockey have proven to be enough to undo a lot of good minutes of hockey.
“We know that we’re playing well,” says Caps center Mike Ribeiro. “The thing is to play it for 60 minutes. Like I said after last game, we dominated most of the game in chances for and against. It comes to details … if you don’t show up for a shift, well that shift might cost you. That’s where we’re at now. We know we’re playing better and following the system, but we need to do that through the 60-minute period.”
Washington has yet to win consecutive games this season, and it has fallen into the basement of the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps know they’ve got to get a winning streak started in order to start climbing their way up the rungs of the Eastern Conference standings ladder.
“We got to put a string together here,” says Chimera. “I think goal scoring is a big thing. You’ve got to step up to score goals. I know myself, I’ve got to do a little more. Guys like [Alex Ovechkin] and [Nicklas Backstrom] have to pick up the slack and help our team out.”
Goal scoring has been an issue. Ovechkin has two goals, both on the power play. Backstrom has one. Chimera has yet to score. Washington has scored three or fewer goals in each of its nine games this season, its longest streak of that nature since a nine-game spell with three or fewer goals from Feb. 17-March 7, 2011.
“You’ve just got to bury them,” says Chimera. “I know I had three chances [Sunday]. You’ve just got to put them in the net. You’ve got those chances to score, a lot of times you look back and those could have been the game-changer. When you get those chances, you’ve got to put them in the back of the net.
I think we outchanced [the Penguins] 2-to-1. When you do that and come up on the wrong end of the scoresheet, you’re doing something wrong. You’ve got to keep getting those chances, but bear down and get them [into the net].”
There is no panic in the Caps’ room, and more importantly perhaps, no panic behind the Caps’ bench.
“Like I said a week ago,” says Oates, “I wouldn’t sacrifice the way the team is playing for a couple of wins. I wouldn’t, not [winning] the wrong way. Because I think big picture. You want to win tonight but you have to try to think big picture, and that’s what direction we’re going as a team. I think we’re going in the right direction.”
There hasn’t been a problem with the process. The Caps are playing the way Oates wants them to play, for the most part. Now it’s time to translate the Oates way into wins and points.
“It’s a results-based business and you’ve got to have results or there is going to be change,” says Chimera. “Outplaying teams and outchancing them is just not good enough. You’ve got to be on the right side of the scoresheet. Playing good is just not good enough. You’ve got to have wins.”
Toronto comes to town on the heels of a 4-1 home ice loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night. The Leafs are sitting in a three-way tie for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, a mere three points ahead of Washington.
After scoring the game’s first goal to take a 1-0 lead into the second period, Toronto surrendered four unanswered goals – two in the second and two in the third – on its way to its fifth loss of the season. Two of the Carolina goals came on the power play.
Last night’s loss left the Leafs with a miserable 1-4 record on home ice; that lone win was against Washington last week. Toronto is 3-1 on the road this season, winning in Montreal, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
James Reimer started and won in goal against the Caps in Toronto last Thursday. Reimer started his fifth straight game on Monday against Carolina, so there’s a decent chance the Caps will get their first-ever look at Ben Scrivens on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old Scrivens is 1-2 with a 2.96 GAA and an .881 save pct. in his three starts thus far this season.
Matt Frattin – who scored the game-winning goal against the Caps last Thursday – scored the Leafs’ lone goal on Monday night against the Canes. He leads the Leafs with five goals on the season.
Noted Leafs sniper Phil Kessel is still seeking his first goal of the season. He has four assists in nine games this season.