One And Done – Washington recently went nearly eight years without going three straight regular season games with one or zero goals. The Caps ended that lengthy spell when they were held to single tallies in three straight road games in the middle of last month, from Nov. 15-19.
Prior to that, you had to go back to Dec. 27-31, 2003 to find the last stretch of three straight regular season games with such a meager offensive output.
The Caps didn’t wait so long for their next fallow period. Washington went three straight games with a single goal from Nov. 26-Dec. 1, a span that covered the last game with Bruce Boudreau as the team’s head coach and the first two with Dale Hunter as bench boss.
Don’t look now, but after going nearly eight years without that type of sustained offensive futility, the Caps have done it for the third time in just over a month (33 days). By virtue of Saturday’s 2-1 setback to the Avs in Colorado, Washington has again registered but a single tally in each of its last three games.
Boudreau was noted for his tendency to juggle lines when things weren’t clicking and sometimes even when they were. Hunter has shown much more patience, keeping essentially the same combinations together through the last five games, a stretch during which the Capitals have scored just three even-strength goals in their last four games.
With the exception of Matt Hendricks returning to the lineup for tonight’s game and replacing Cody Eakin on the left side of the fourth line, the four forward lines have remain intact since they were put together in their current formation for the Dec. 7 game in Ottawa, a 5-3 win.
In the four games since that win over the Senators, the lines have produced a combined total of three even-strength goals.
Ironically, each of those three goals has come with a trio of forwards on the ice in a combination other than those iced at the start of the game.
Jeff Halpern – who has been playing with Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer – scored the team’s lone goal in its 5-1 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday, getting help from defenseman Dennis Wideman and from Joel Ward. Ward skates with Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera in what has been Washington’s most consistently kept together combo this season.
Alex Ovechkin tallied the Caps’ lone goal at Winnipeg on Thursday, with assists from Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin has been skating with Backstrom and Alexander Semin for the past five games.
Semin scored Washington’s goal on Saturday against Colorado, getting help from Dmitry Orlov and Ward.
Not Just The Numbers – Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth gave up two goals on the 28 shots he faced in Saturday’s game. Coming off a 26-save shutout over the Jets in Winnipeg on Thursday and following some early season struggles, those two starts will improve Neuvirth’s peripheral numbers.
The Caps goaltender was critical of himself for surrendering the game’s first goal, a Cody McLeod floater from the blueline that nestled into the top corner of the net over Neuvirth’s waving glove hand.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose,” says Neuvirth. “Obviously that first goal was horrible. I lost it in the crowd. But you know, with the one goal [in offensive support], it’s hard to win.”
Sixer – Semin scored his sixth goal of the season to account for all of Washington’s offense on the night. It was Semin’s first goal since Nov. 23.
In four of his seven NHL seasons, Semin had six goals before the end of October. He scored six goals in his first five games of the season in 2008-09, six in six games in 2006-07 and six in seven games in 2009-10.
This season, he scored his sixth goal in his 28th game and the team’s 31st. He needed 36 games (and 65 team games) to get to six in his rookie season of 2003-04, and needed 22 games (39 team games) to reach that modest level in 2007-08.
One-Goal Games – The Caps have now played in 15 one-goal games of the 31 to date this season, posting a 9-5-1 mark in those games and a 7-9 record in the rest.
Climbing The Ladder – Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik played in career game No. 1,338 here in Denver tonight. That puts him one game ahead of former Capitals center Adam Oates for 45th place on the NHL’s all-time games played ledger.
Saturday Road Struggles – The 2-1 loss to the Avalanche in Denver drops the Capitals to 0-5 in Saturday night road games this season. Washington has been outscored by a combined 26-10 in those contests.
By contrast, the Capitals are 4-0-1 in their five home ice Saturday night games this season. They’ve outscored the opposition by a combined 18-9 in those games.
The bad news: Washington has just one Saturday night home date remaining this season and it doesn’t come until late March.
Schooled In The Circle – Washington won just three of its 18 first-period face-offs for an anemic 17% success rate in the first period. Without nowhere to go but up from there, the Caps finished the night with 19 wins in 52 face-offs for a 37% success rate.
Zero Heroes No More – Both Colorado goal scorers in Saturday’s game netted their first tallies of the season. McLeod and defenseman Erik Johnson each scored for the first time in 2011-12.
McLeod had gone 37 games and Johnson 38 games without lighting the lamp prior to Saturday’s game.
There’s No Place Like Home – Saturday’s win over Washington runs the Avalanche’s home-ice winning streak to five straight games. It’s the first time the Avs have win five straight on home ice since Feb. 2-12, 2010.
With the way they’ve been playing on the road, it’s good for the Avs that they’ve been able to string together some wins at home and that they’ll be playing their next three games at home.
Colorado is 0-8-1 in its last nine road games.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears opened the weekend with a 4-3 road win over division rival Norfolk on Friday night. Braden Holtby made 31 saves in goal while Matt Ford scored twice and Graham Mink and Chris Bourque supplied single strikes to account for the Hershey offense. The win was Holtby’s ninth; he is now 9-6-1 on the season.
Saturday night found the Bears back home at Giant Center to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. This time, the Bears rolled to a 5-0 win behind the 31-save shutout netminding of Dany Sabourin and three power play goals.
Christian Hanson had one and Ryan Potulny two power play goals while Boyd Kane and Ford added even-strength markers. Hershey’s league-leading power play is now up to a lofty 31.8% success rate on the season, well ahead of second-place Syracuse (23.1%) in that category.
The 16-7-3-2 Bears now share the lead in the AHL’s East Division with 37 points. Hershey finishes off a bust weekend on Sunday when it hosts Norfolk at Giant Center.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays spent the weekend facing South Division rival Gwinnett.
The Stingrays played host to the Gladiators on Friday night, falling 2-1. Zach Tarkir scored the lone South Carolina goal and Philipp Grubauer made 21 saves in net.
The two teams faced off again on Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum with the Gladiators again skating off with a one-goal decision, 1-0. Daren Machesney made 21 stops in goal for the Stingrays in Saturday’s loss.
The losses dropped the 14-11-0-1 Stingrays into a second-place tie with Greenville in the South, five points behind front-running Gwinnett.
By The Numbers – Dennis Wideman paced the Caps with 26:52 in ice time … Ovechkin skated 4:34 of the 6:14 in which Washington held the man advantage … Brooks Laich led the Capitals with four takeaways … Avs rookie Gabriel Landeskog paced his team with seven shots on goal and four takeaways.