One timers: Caps fall 4-2 to Winnipeg

January 23, 2013

(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here.

>> For as ugly as Washington’s 4-2 loss to the Jets was Tuesday night, it’s tough to get a true read on this team at this stage. It might take 10-12 games before anyone can really gauge what to expect from the Capitals, but falling behind in the standings early could cause a lot of problems in this shortened season.

So how long will it take to get everyone on the same page?

“I don’t know. I wish I knew. Hopefully not one more day,” Karl Alzner said. “Hopefully it clicks and we can do it all and start playing better. There’s system stuff; there’s hard-work stuff. [Tuesday night] even if we have breakdowns in the system, we should be able to fix ‘em with hard work. There wasn’t enough of that.”

>> Given Marcus Johansson’s ineffectiveness and penchant for neutral zone turnovers for a second straight game, it wasn’t shocking to see the young center on the bench for most of the third period Tuesday night.

Johansson took one 50-second shift in the final frame, as Coach Adam Oates searched for a better option on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

“I felt he could play better,” Oates said of Johansson. “You hope every guy uses his strengths and one of Marcus’s strengths is his skating ability, and I didn’t think he was skating. I was looking for a spark, something else.”

Oates turned to Matt Hendricks, who was the most consistent player against the Jets, to fill that role, but that’s likely not a long-term solution.

>> Speaking of Hendricks, it’s not a good sign when  the team’s most impactful player is their gritty fourth-line winger.

Hendricks’s hustle yielded the Capitals’ only goal, and when the team found itself lacking the requisite energy and drive, he dropped the gloves twice – first with Jim Slater at the end of the second and then against Chris Thorburn in the third period.

“I want to get the crowd into it, I want to give them some form of energy, get the guys on the bench going,” Hendricks said. “That’s the reason it’s in hockey games.”

He finished with three shots and more penalty minutes (10) than he did time on ice (9:58) and was one of only a few players that displayed the spark Washington needed. Don’t be surprised if you see Oates try to incorporate the blue-collar forward into more situations and increase his ice time.

“That’s the type of guy he is. That’s what I heard about him. He showed it again tonight,” Oates said. “He’s willing to win at all costs.”

>> While few Capitals played well, none had as rough of a night as John Carlson, who played a part in each of Winnipeg’s first three goals of the night.

On the first, he failed to challenge or take away Evander Kane’s bad angle shot and the puck wound up ricocheting off his skate and past Braden Holtby. He was in the box for delay of game after firing the puck over the glass for the second by Andrew Ladd. And on the third, Kane blazed past Carlson wide with little trouble and went on to send a perfect pass for Blake Wheeler to one-time into the net.

>> Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom recorded their first points of the season, recording one and two assists respectively, against the Jets but still barely resemble what the Capitals need from their two franchise pillars.

They’re still adjusting, but the process isn’t being helped along much by Ovechkin continuing to drift to the left side despite lining up on the right.

In his postgame availability with reporters, Oates was asked how long the experiment of Ovechkin on the right wing will last if it doesn’t click early.

“You know what? I thought he played fine on the right wing. I think he still ended up on the left side and had some rushes,” Oates said. “I would like him to stay there. But obviously, I know he wants success as well as we do. But it is a team game and he needs other guys on the team to help him.”

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Mark Giannotto · January 23, 2013

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