Faulty First – By the time the Capitals recorded their first shot on goal in Sunday’s game against the Blackhawks in Chicago, their hosts already owned a 2-0 lead. The Hawks thoroughly outplayed the Caps in the game’s first 20 minutes, and while Washington has authored some thrilling comebacks of late, they haven’t done so against teams of Chicago’s caliber.
And they didn’t on Sunday, either.
The Hawks kept their foot on the gas and sent the Caps off to Detroit (where they face the Red Wings on Monday) with a 5-2 loss, their second in as many games after a four-game winning streak.
“You look up at the scoreboard three-quarters of the way through the first period,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble, “and you’re down 12-0 in shots. You can’t come out like that this time of year. It can’t be acceptable in our room.”
“We had talked about their skill and their speed,” says ex-Hawks winger and current Capital Troy Brouwer. “I think we were backing off a little bit. I don’t think we had quite the jump that we needed at the beginning of the game.
“We let ourselves get down by a couple goals, and we didn’t have enough determination and enough of that desire to get in and work for pucks, and that’s why we didn’t get any pucks to the net. And when you don’t get any pucks to the net, you don’t get second chances and that’s where most goals were scored.”
The Caps struggled early, and got on track here and there but never for a long enough span. Washington’s first shot on goal came 16 minutes into the first, and by then Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg had staked Chicago to a 2-0 lead.
“We just didn’t play in their zone at all,” laments Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “Even if we got the puck deep, we didn’t have pressure, we didn’t have two guys on their [defense]. You can see we got [our first] shot shorthanded, [Mike] Green took the first shot. That was probably at the 10-minute mark [16, actually]. We can’t play like that, especially at that kind of moment when we need to put pressure on and make their [defense] work. We didn’t do nothing at all.”
The Caps were outshot 12-3 in the first, but they got on the scoreboard early in the second and showed some brief signs of life. Keith Aucoin forced a turnover, then fed Knuble in the slot for a one-timer wrist shot that beat Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford.
“When Knubs scored,” says Ovechkin, “it was kind of a good moment and a wake-up call for us. After that, we had a pretty good shift. But they have some skilled guys and when we give them that kind of opportunity to play with the puck and give them freedom, they’re going to use it and you can see how they scored that goal.”
That good moment vanished when a John Carlson turnover and some defensive breakdowns led to a Patrick Kane goal that restored Chicago’s two-goal lead.
There were breakdowns and turnovers in the Washington end throughout the game, and Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth had to stand tall to keep his team close.
“There were a few, yeah,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “I think they cycled us hard. They used their point really well; the guys got the pucks through. A lot of tips. It was hard to slow them down. We didn’t really have much of an answer for them.”
“Tomorrow is going to be a new day, it’s going to be a new game, and tomorrow we have to win the game,” Ovechkin philosophizes.
What’s A Guy Gotta Do? – Washington had just one power play opportunity in Sunday’s game, and that came early in the third period with the Caps trailing 4-2. A goal at that point of the game might have loomed large, but the Caps couldn’t muster as much as a shot on goal during their lone man-advantage opportunity.
The Capitals now have had 13 power play chances in their last nine games, and they’ve actually drawn only 11 of those – one of those was a too many men on the ice call and another was a delay of game (puck over glass) – for an anemic average of 1.22 per game over a stretch that represents more than a tenth of the season.
Thirty For Ovi – Ovechkin scored a highlight reel goal in the second period, notching his 30th goal of the season in the process. He is one of just three NHL players (Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla) who have scored 30 or more goals in each of the last seven NHL seasons.
Helping Hands – Neuvirth collected the primary assist on Ovechkin’s 30th goal of the season. The helper was the first point of Neuvirth’s NHL career, and it came in the 102nd game of his career.
Thirty For Schachte – Longtime NHL linesman Dan Schachte officiated his last game in the league on Sunday afternoon, nearly 30 years after his first. Schachte broke into the league on Oct. 6, 1982 when he skated in a Toronto-Chicago tilt at the old Chicago Stadium.
Schachte skated in 2,009 regular season NHL games and 221 Stanley Cup playoff contests during his career. He performed his linesman duties in five Stanley Cup final series.
Only five men in NHL history have served as linesmen in more games than Schachte: Ray Scapinello (2,500), Gerard Gauthier (2,345), Mark Pare (2,172), Randy Mitton (2,108) and Swede Knox (2,045).
Schachte’s 2,009 games is the most ever by a U.S.-born linesman.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears closed out a busy weekend with a 4-1 win over the Devils in Albany. Boyd Kane scored twice and Patrick McNeill and Maxime Lacroix added single tallies to support Dany Sabourin’s 24-save efforts in the Hershey nets.
The fifth-place Bears are now 3-0-0-1 in their last four games, and they’re five points behind fourth-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL’s Eastern Conference standings.
By The Numbers – Dennis Wideman led the Capitals with 24:12 in ice time … Knuble led the Caps with three shots on net … Ovechkin, Jason Chimera and Matt Hendricks led the Caps with four hits each … Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with three blocked shots … The Caps were schooled in the face-off circle, winning just 19 of 55 draws (35%).