Western Woes – Washington dropped a 4-1 decision to the Colorado Avalanche at Verizon Center in a lackluster contest on Friday night, halting the Caps’ winning streak at three. The loss was just the team’s fifth in regulation at the Phone Booth in 2009, but four of those five have come in calendar 2009 and all of those four have come at the hands of Western Conference teams who were on the outside of the playoff chase and looking in at the time of their visit to the District.
The Caps previously lost at home to Columbus on Jan. 9, to Edmonton on Jan. 13 and to Los Angeles on Feb. 7. Ten of Washington’s total of 17 regulation losses on the season have come at the hands of Western Conference opponents. The Capitals are 30-7-5 against Eastern Conference foes, and are 18-1-1 against Eastern clubs on home ice.
Tonight’s loss drops the Capitals to 7-10 against Western Conference opponents this season. The Capitals have just one game remaining against the West, on March 10 in Nashville.
With Friday night’s win in Washington, Colorado is now 7-5 against Eastern Conference opponents this season. Every team in the Northwest Division is above .500 against the Eastern Conference, and the Northeast has combined for a 41-19-5 record against the opposite conference.
The entire Western Conference has a 119-69-21 record against its Eastern Conference counterparts this season. St. Louis and Anaheim (both 6-9-1) are the only two Western teams with sub-.500 records against Eastern Conference opponents this season.
Stifled – Colorado did a great job of taking away the middle of the ice and limiting odd-man breaks against the Caps. Washington scored its only goal of the night on a 3-on-2 rush, but other than that, the Caps found it difficult to put a couple of passes together and get pucks cleanly into the attack zone.
“Our team did a nice job of not letting [the Caps have] a lot of odd-man rushes,” said veteran Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote. “That was the key to tonight’s game, I think. We didn’t have an open game with them.”
The Avs scored first and although Washington rallied to knot the score with a goal in the final seconds of the first, it never really felt like the Caps were involved in this one. The lifelessness on the ice seeped into the stands. As a result, a sellout crowd – Washington’s seventh in succession – ended up sounding like a library at closing time.
“I think 20 guys weren’t very good,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “You want to put a spin on it that way, go ahead. We just didn’t have it. We had nothing. We looked horrible out there. I can’t read into their minds. Everybody had their bad game at the same time. When you win a lot of games in a row, you’re going to have a stinker and obviously you don’t want to have one, but you do. Today was it.”
Streak Stoppers –Alex Ovechkin’s streak of 10 consecutive games with at least one point came to a halt tonight as he was held off the scoresheet. Alexander Semin is now without a point in consecutive games for the first time this season.
First Things First – Washington scored its only goal of the night in the first period, marking the 11th straight game in which the Caps have had at least one goal in the first frame.
One Up – Nicklas Backstrom scored the Caps’ goal, his 15th of the season and his second in as many games. Backstrom’s 15th came in his 59th game of the season. As an NHL rookie in 2007-08, Backstrom had 14 goals in 82 games.
A Strong Run – Caps winger Eric Fehr started the play that led to Backstrom’s goal. Fehr earned an assist, giving him six goals and 10 points in his last 10 games.
Similar Numbers – Washington concluded last season with a 37-17-7 mark in 61 games under Boudreau. The Caps are 37-17-5 in 59 games this season, meaning they are 74-34-12 since Bruce took over.
Old Friends, New Foes – For his second consecutive start, Caps goaltender Jose Theodore faced one of his former NHL teams. He bested the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-3 shootout on Wednesday night but lost Friday’s game against the Avs.
Theodore is now 1-5-1 with a 3.16 GAA and an .889 save pct. during his career against Colorado.
Power Disparity – The Capitals have had 15 two-man advantage opportunities this season totaling 10:15 in duration. Washington has not scored a goal on the two-man advantage since Nicklas Backstrom did so in Los Angeles on Nov. 20.
Washington’s opponents have had 27 two-man advantage opportunities good for a total of 23:25. Capitals foes have cashed in on nine of those 27 chances this season.
In their last 10 games, the Capitals have had four third period power plays and have had to face 23 opposition power plays in the final frame.
20 Again – Colorado’s Ryan Smyth started the scoring at 10:27 of the first when he jimmied a puck loose from between Theodore’s skate and the goalpost. The goal was Smyth’s 20th of the season, marking the ninth time in his NHL career he has reached that plateau.
“That’s what he does,” sighed Theodore after the game, when asked about Smyth’s goal. “He kind of pokes at you. On the first goal I thought obviously on the second whack there should have been a whistle but he kept whacking. That’s what he’s done all through his career.”
Look Out Greenie – Foote scored what proved to be the game-winning goal at 7;46 of the second period when he made a great read and jumped into space in the high slot. Milan Hejduk’s patience and precision pass produced a perfect feed and Foote buried it for the 66th goal of his 1,031-game NHL career.
The goal was Foote’s first in 106 games, dating back to Oct. 6, 2007. The drought consumed about 10% of Foote’s career. The goal was Foote’s first game-winner since Oct. 26, 2005 when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Foote, who wears No. 52 for the Avs, looked like the Caps’ No. 52 on the game-winner tonight.
Perfection – The Avalanche is now 18-0 when leading after two periods this season.
Century City – Colorado coach Tony Granato won his 100th game as an NHL head coach tonight. He is the 10th American-born coach in the NHL to record 100 wins and the fifth coach in Nordiques/Avalanche history to reach the century mark in wins.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps bench boss Glen Hanlon, born on this date in 1957.
1 - 0 COL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 COL
3 - 1 COL
4 - 1 COL