Monday, March 11, 2013

New York, New York: Caps Lose Again

Brad Richards celebrates 3rd period goal

It's not cheap, watching the Washington Capitals live at Verizon Center; so forgive me for wanting to get my $134's worth (not including concessions, and Metro fare to and from the arena.) Yesterday's 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers can hardly be called entertaining. Less than 24 hours removed from a similar drubbing at the hands of New York's other hockey club, the Islanders 5-2, the up & down Capitals appeared to make many of the same mental errors (especially in regards to penalties) going down to defeat in front of another sold-out house of 18,506.

The Caps had won four straight at Verizon Center, including a 7-1 rout of Florida last Thursday; but looked downright tired yesterday. After taking an early 1-0 lead on defenseman Steve Oleksy's first NHL goal, the home team allowed four unanswered... including a devastating pair of goals, just 41 seconds apart midway through the second period. Devastating and perhaps controversial. Alex Ovechkin (4 shots, -3) was called for two penalties within 10 seconds (tripping, holding) allowing Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan to score and put New York up for good 3-1. Head coach Adam Oates immediately yanked goaltender Braden Holtby (16 saves, 3 GAs) in favor of Michal Neuvirth (10 saves, 1 GA) who returned after a one-month layoff. Personally, I'd have pulled Ovechkin instead.

One could argue that the 2-time NHL MVP isn't living up to the massive $124 million, 13-year contract extension he signed back in 2008. After failing to score 40 goals during the past two seasons, Ovie has nine goals and 11 assists in 24 games this year. Those totals rank 37th and 78th respectively in the league. His 101 shots rank second only to Winnipeg's Evander Kane; but perhaps more telling, his +/- ranks 663rd at -6. Ouch. Ovechkin is still my favorite player in the league; but I thought his play would have improved more under an offense-minded coach (Oates.) When you're 10-13-1, and seven points out of the final playoff spot... you have to question everything.

The Capitals return home tomorrow night to host Carolina at 7:00 PM. The Hurricanes are sitting pretty right now, leading the Southeast division by three points over Winnipeg and eight over the Caps. A win tomorrow (and Thursday, at Carolina) could shake things rather nicely for the Red Army.

Click here for yesterday's box score.