High Quantity, Low Quality – Washington doesn’t drop consecutive regulation games very often, but it has lost its last pair after Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the Thrashers at Verizon Center.
After firing 82 shots to the Stars’ 48 in Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Dallas, the Caps had their launchers loaded again tonight. They teed up another 82 shots to just 43 for the Thrashers, but the visitors were much more precise with their bids. Atlanta put 33 shots on Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov, getting just four of its shot tries blocked and missing with six attempts.
Washington registered a single-game season high of 46 shots on goal, but had 20 shots blocked and missed the net 16 times.
Although the Caps continue to pour shots on goal, coach Bruce Boudreau is not happy with the quality of those missiles.
“You look at our team and we haven’t scored a lot of goals lately,” he laments. “I think it’s the lack of commitment to paying the price to score. We’re all wanting to score, but we’re staying on the perimeter hoping to get the puck rather than being the guy who’s going to get the puck. And the guys that did that had chances. But they’re not natural goal scorers.
“[Matt] Hendricks went to the net, there was a loose puck there and it bounced over his stick. Eric Fehr, who’s holding his stick too tight, went to the net and it flipped up on him. The same thing with [Mike] Knuble, who had things in there. But the guys that are looking to score aren’t getting their nose dirty enough to score the goals.”
Atlanta allows an average of 35.1 shots per game, the most in the NHL. The Caps’ previous single-game high this season was a 44-shot barrage against the Thrashers on Oct. 23.
Washington’s last pair of regulation losses in succession were Oct. 19-21, both at the hands of the Boston Bruins. Between the two sets of regulation losses, the Caps were 14-3-2.
Tonight’s Atlanta win snapped a nine-game Thrashers losing streak in the District. Their 3-1 win here was their first at the Phone Booth since Kari Lehtonen’s 2-0 whitewashing of Washington on Feb. 2, 2008.
Battle of the Hot Goalies – Tonight’s tilt pitted a pair of the hottest goaltenders in the league. Heading into Saturday’s Capitals-Thrashers game at Verizon Center, Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was 6-1 with a 1.46 GAA and a .963 save pct. in his previous seven starts.
Caps starter Semyon Varlamov was 4-0 with a 1.23 GAA and a .957 save pct. in his prior four assignments.
Power Outage – Washington had five power play chances in Saturday’s game, only the second time in the last 14 games in which the Caps have had as many as five power play opportunities.
The Caps pumped 15 shots on goal in those five chances, and they also had four shot tries blocked and six that missed the net. The 15 shots Washington did get on goal during its power play chances came from an average length of 31.2 feet, not exactly prime scoring area.
Again, Boudreau was unhappy with the quality of the shots and chances.
“If you look at the power play we have everybody just all in a circle looking to take one-timers,” says the Caps’ bench boss. “Then there was no second-shot capability. Usually when we’ve got the puck at the point, we have a guy going to the net and we have options. Tonight, they were getting the puck at the point or on the half-wall and everybody was just standing around hoping something was going to happen.”
Fifteen power play shots on goal matches the Caps’ single-game high for the season; they also had 15 (in seven extra-man chances) in a Nov. 20 game against Philadelphia at Verizon Center.
Washington is now 1-for-17 (5.9%) on the power play in its five games against the Thrashers this season. The Caps have one goal in 34 power play shots against Atlanta this season for an anemic shooting rate of 2.9%.
The Little Things – Two of Atlanta’s goals – its first and its third – came as a direct result of offensive zone face-off wins over the Caps, who came up on the short side of the night’s face-off ledger for the first time in 14 games.
Also, two blatant high-sticking calls on the Caps’ Jason Chimera went uncalled. One of those drew blood and would have resulted in a double-minor. Atlanta scored soon after one of those non-calls, too. The non-calls had an impac
“Especially the four-minute one,” says Chimera. “I go down on the power play, it could have been a 5-on-3. They scored a goal I think a minute and a half after that, we’d have been on the power play. I don’t think they would have scored a goal if we were on the power play.
“There are four [officials] out there. They shouldn’t miss high sticks, especially when you’re bleeding. The linesmen can call it, too. I don’t know how they missed it. I had the puck; it’s not like it was away from the play. I don’t know what they’re looking at.”
No. 11 for No. 8 – Caps captain Alex Ovechkin ended his personal goal drought at nine straight games – matching the longest dry spell of his career – with his 11th goal of the season in the final minute of the second period.
Missing Man – Tonight’s game was the 28th of the season for the Capitals, and the first contest missed by defenseman John Erskine. Now in his ninth NHL season, this is the furthest Erskine has ever gone into an NHL season before missing his first game of the campaign. His single-season career high in games played is 52 with Washington in 2008-09.
There are now eight Capitals players who have skated in all 28 games this season.
Double Nickel – Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz logged just 14:12 on the night, ending a streak in which he had played 20 or more minutes in 17 straight games. Schultz has skated 20 or more minutes in 24 of the Caps’ first 28 games this season.
Schultz’s ice time on Saturday was his lowest in 13 months, since he skated just 7:27 against Florida on Nov. 6, 2009, a game in which he left with an injury.
Fine Firsts – Tonight’s game marks the sixth contest in succession in which the Caps kept the opposition off the scoreboard in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Four Score – Tonight’s game marks just the second time in the last 19 meetings between Washington and Atlanta that one or both teams did not score at least four goals.
Shooting Blanks – When Ovechkin finally solved the Pavelec puzzle late in the second period of Saturday’s game, it ended Pavelec’s shutout run against Washington at 105 minutes and 14 seconds. Pavelec’s streak began after he surrendered Erskine’s third-period game-winner in a Nov. 14 game at Verizon Center.
In his last three appearances against Washington, Pavelec has stopped 89 of 91 shots for a 0.76 GAA and a .978 save pct. during that stretch.
Down On The Farm – A night after earning a 3-2 road win at Albany, the AHL Hershey Bears were back at Giant Center to host Binghamton on Saturday. With Braden Holtby minding the twine for the Bears, Hershey blanked Binghamton 4-0.
Maxime Lacroix, Francois Bouchard, Jay Beagle (a shorthanded strike) and Ashton Rome supplied the offense in support of Holtby’s 24-save efforts. The shutout is Holtby’s second of the season and second in a span of eight days.
The Bears rank fourth in the East Division standings, 11 points behind front-running Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and two points in back of third-place Charlotte.
Hershey is now idle until Wednesday when it opens a four-game road trip back in Albany. The Bears will play a pair of weekend games in Charlotte on Friday and Sunday.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays suffered a 2-0 home ice loss at the hands of the Greenville Road Warriors on Saturday. Todd Ford made 26 stops for the Stingrays in a losing effort.
By The Numbers – The game’s opening face-off was the only time the puck was dropped in the first 8:50 of tonight’s game, and there were a total of only 10 face-offs in the first frame … Ovechkin’s goal was the 30th of his career against Atlanta. That’s two more than Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier for the all-time high against the Thrashers … Ovechkin led all forwards on both sides with 25:38 in ice time … Mike Green led all skaters on both sides with 28:25 … Defenseman Tyler Sloan returned to action for the first time since Nov. 22. He skated 12:24 on the night … Brent Sopel paced Atlanta with five blocked shots.