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.
>>Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to Toronto, combined with Calgary’s 4-1 win over Detroit, gives the Capitals sole possession of last place in the NHL. There’s no way to make that sound any better, no matter how many positives anyone can point to.
“It’s incredibly frustrating. We’re not getting any results right now,” Karl Alzner said. “It seems every game we have one or two human-error goals, not ones that we should let in or allow them to even have a chance. And every time we do, it seems to be killing us. I’m very frustrated. I still feel like we play good hockey, just never good enough to win, though, and it’s about time we get over that hump.”
Alzner zeroes in on the crux of things quite well. No matter how well the Capitals may play, they’ve only done enough to win twice. They’re falling behind in the Eastern Conference and as the preventable mistakes continue to pile up, patience wears thin.
“I’ve never experienced a start to a season like this before, so it’s very frustrating to me and I’m always asking ‘Why?’ but we all like what we’re doing out there,” Alzner said. “I think if you ask a lot of teams, I don’t think it’s super easy to play against us, but we allow easy ones and that’s when you run out of patience, when you keep letting in a couple of soft ones.”
>>Speaking of preventable mistakes, there may be no better example than the miscommunication between Tom Poti and Michal Neuvirth that led to James van Riemsdyk’s first goal of the night.
John Carlson’s shot went high and wide, rimmed around the glass and all the way back to behind the Capitals’ net, where Neuvirth settled the puck. When Poti approached, Neuvirth left the puck for him, but the defenseman thought the goaltender was going to play it.
“We have to be sharper there. It’s a tough play,” Poti said. “It’s a tough way to go down 1-0.”
Neuvirth was asked whose responsibility it was on the play: “It’s tough to say; definitely if the D wants the puck from me, they usually go to the corner.”
Asked how the play behind the net should have developed, Coach Adam Oates didn’t place blame on either player exclusively.
“That’s a difficult one,” Oates said. “I think Tom normally would scatter, but because he had so much time he was coming back to get it, and I think Neuvy just trapped himself a little bit there.”
>>Marcus Johansson scored on the power play late in the opening frame, the first of two power-play goals the Capitals would score against the Maple Leafs. Mike Ribeiro recorded the other in the third period and both goals came off a moving, fluid power play.
But not even Johansson’s first goal since Mar. 29 of last year could detract from the mood at hand in the postgame dressing room.
“We got to believe in what we’re doing. We got to believe that we’ll get better and keep working on it,” Johansson said. “I think everyone is frustrated. I mean, we’re not winning games. That’s what we’re here for and that’s what everybody wants to do. And of course it’s frustrating and tough, but we’ve got to battle through it and find a way to win the games.”
>>Neuvirth has bailed out his teammates quite a few times this season when missed assignments or defensive miscommunications lead to odd-man rushes or good chances for the opposition. He did the same Tuesday night at times.
But he also was part of the flub that caused the first goal, and he admitted after the game he saw Korbinian Holzer’s shot that went in for the third the whole way.
“I had it. I saw it the whole way you know it hits some stick or something and it’s a big goal for them,” Neuvirth said. “I couldn’t believe that that one went in.”
Sure Holzer’s shot from the point changed direction when it was tipped by Jason Chimera’s stick at the top of the circle, but when a redirection is that far out, goaltenders have the time to adjust.
The Capitals needed Neuvirth to make that save, just like they needed Braden Holtby to stop either the third and/or fourth Pittsburgh goals Sunday afternoon.