Dry Gulch – In their first five games of the 2008-09 season, the Washington Capitals racked up 20 goals. They averaged four goals per game and got offensive contributions from virtually every player in the lineup.
In their last two games however, the Caps’ offensive has slowed to a trickle. Washington has managed just two goals in its last two games, and has come out on the short end of consecutive 2-1 decisions as a result.
The last time Washington allowed two or fewer goals in consecutive games and failed to earn as much as a standings point in both was nearly a decade ago. The Caps lost 1-0 at New Jersey on April 8, 1999 and dropped a 2-1 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers at home two days later.
Since the start of the season, the Caps have aimed to give up two or fewer goals per game. It stands to reason that doing so would result in a good number of victories. Since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Washington bench last November, Washington has scored three or more goals in 44 of 68 games. The Caps have also won four of the 24 games in which they did not score as many as three goals over that span.
Suing For Non-Support – Caps goaltender Jose Theodore has played two straight strong games in goal but he has nothing to show for it in the win column. He has stopped 58 of 62 shots (.935 save pct.) in those two games, but Washington has scored only twice in the same span and has lost both tilts in regulation.
Theodore’s loss to the Coyotes on Thursday marked the first time he has ever lost to Phoenix. He is now 5-1-3 lifetime against the Desert Dogs.
A Hole in the Back – Defenseman Tom Poti signed as a free agent with the Caps prior to the 2007-08 season. He missed a total of 11 games last season, and Washington was 4-7 when he was not in the lineup.
Poti has missed each of the last three games for the Caps this season, and Washington is 0-2-1 in those contests. The Capitals are now 4-9-1 in games in which Poti has not played since he joined the team. Washington is 42-25-8 when Poti is in the lineup.
Restoring Power – Heading into Thursday’s game, the Caps were intent upon restarting their largely dormant power play. The plan was to get more shots on goal, more shots from the point, more traffic in front and hopefully, more goals. And the idea was also to get away from the team’s recent tendency to try to make the pretty or fancy plays while it enjoyed the man advantage.
The Caps went 1-for-4 on the power play against Phoenix. They got more shots and a bit more traffic in front. The Capitals actually managed three shots on goal in their first 1:12 on the power play on Thursday against the Coyotes, matching the number they mustered in a 7:05 span on the power play in the first period of Tuesday’s game at Calgary.
On the evening, Washington managed eight shots on goal during the 6:52 it spent on the power play. That figure compares well with the 16 power play shots on goal the Caps managed in 31 power play minutes during their previous three games.
Ironically, the lone Washington power play goal on Thursday came on a pretty passing play, and it came on a 4-on-2 rush rather than as a result of sustained offensive zone pressure.
Alexander Semin carried the puck into the attack zone with three teammates, and used a nifty toe drag to elude an attempted stick-check. He then passed to Brooks Laich, who ripped a sharp wrister past Phoenix netminder Mikael Tellqvist to give the Caps a 1-0 second period lead.
The goal was Laich’s first power play marker of the season, and the first power play goal by any Capital other than Mike Green that came with multiple players on the ice this season. Green scored four of Washington’s first five power play goals this season. Michael Nylander scored the other, but it came as the result of a penalty shot.
Semin Strong at Even Strength – Semin leads the NHL with six even-strength goals. No other player has more than four. Last season, Semin scored 10 of his 26 goals on the power play.
First Not Best – Last season, the Capitals were 30-11-2 in games in which they scored the first goal. Thus far this season, Washington is 0-2-1 when it scores the game’s first tally.
Trouble in the Last Twenty – Washington was 26-1-2 when it led after two periods last season, but it has now failed to win in consecutive contests in which it has led after the first 40 minutes.
Last Saturday, the Caps took a 2-1 lead into the third period on home ice against New Jersey. They ended up on the short end of a 4-3 shootout decision. On Thursday night in Phoenix, the Capitals nursed a 1-0 lead into the game’s final frame. But the Coyotes netted a pair of goals in a span of 4:03 early in the third period to send the Caps to a second straight 2-1 setback.
Scoreless First – For the first time in the young season, the Capitals and their opponents played a scoreless first period on Thursday night. The two teams combined for 27 shots on goal (14 for Phoenix and 13 for Washington) but none of them found their mark.
Working Man – Veteran center-turned-defenseman Sergei Fedorov led the Caps in ice time on Thursday, logging 25:30. It’s the most ice time Fedorov has had in a regular season game since he skated 26:59 for Columbus at Anaheim on March 14, 2007.
Road Woes – Washington’s consecutive road losses in regulation time are its first since Jan. 23 and Jan. 29 in Toronto and Montreal, respectively.
Two More for No. 4 – Caps defenseman John Erskine was unable to answer the bell for Thursday’s game because of a minor injury sustained late in Tuesday’s game against the Flames in Calgary. But there is nothing wrong with Erskine’s hand, and he used it on Thursday to ink a contract extension that will pay him a total of $2.5 million over the next two seasons.
Erskine is currently in his third season with Washington. He signed with the Capitals as a free agent prior to the start of the 2006-07 season.
Long Time Coming – Phoenix’s home ice win over Washington was its first in more than seven years. The Coyotes previous win over the Caps in the desert came on Oct. 13, 2001 in a 5-2 triumph.
Home Cooking – Phoenix center Kyle Turris was the team’s first choice (third overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The 19-year-old Turris is currently staying at the home of Darren Pang, Phoenix’s television color analyst and one of the game’s top ambassadors anywhere.