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. If you missed them, check out the game story from the Capitals’ 4-1 loss in Philadelphia and the slow start that set the tone for it all.
>> Each time the Capitals seem to find their footing this season, a reminder that they’re not yet fully on track is always close behind. This week after two thorough victories against New Jersey and Carolina, the Capitals had their letdown game in Philadelphia.
Sure, fatigue was a factor, as players and Coach Adam Oates pointed out, but Washington’s inability to snap out of its funk Wednesday included familiar bad habits.
From trying to stick-handle through the neutral zone against three or more opponents at any one time, failing to clear the zone with force, a lack of puck support and precious little cycle work to speak of, the Capitals played nothing like the way they had been playing recently. For every few steps forward, it seems like Washington takes another step back – or at least stops its own momentum cold.
“It sure seems like that. Hopefully that’s not the way it continues to go but that does seem to be the trend,” Karl Alzner said. “Definitely want to stop that right away. I think we’re still not where we want to be completely but we’re getting back there. Not a good loss [Wednesday] but hopefully it doesn’t set us back more than one game.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who was pulled for the first time in his NHL career after allowing four goals on 18 shots to the Flyers, said he didn’t believe that this was a sign of true regression.
“I think it’s only a step back if we lose our confidence, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Holtby said. “That’s the way it goes. If we didn’t have the start we had, I don’t think you’d be asking that question because that’s just the way a hockey season goes is you have a couple good games, and sometimes you let up for a bit. That’s just what’s happening right now.”
>> During the second intermission of Wednesday’s game, NBC Sports Network’s Mike Milbury ripped Alex Ovechkin’s effort and overall play. Criticizing Ovechkin is nothing new for Milbury but in this particular segment he reached new heights with his scathing indictment of the winger’s play.
“When you have great talent, it comes with great expectations and accountability,” Milbury said. “If you put him up to those two standards tonight, he fails the test miserably. This is an awful display of hockey by Alex Ovechkin. He should be ashamed of himself.”
Milbury took aim at Ovechkin’s embellishment of a high-sticking call, lack of fight along the boards and heading off for a line change immediately before the Flyers scored their fourth goal of the night. You can check out Milbury’s full comments over at the D.C. Sports Bog.
One person who isn’t concerned with Milbury’s comments, though, is Ovechkin.
“Well it’s his point,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t listen to those guys; I don’t listen to nobody right now, so they can talk whatever they want, to be honest with you. It’s their point.”
Asked about Ovechkin’s play, Oates didn’t single the captain out in what was an ugly game for every player on the ice in a Capitals sweater. “Same as everybody,” Oates said. “Not good enough. All of us.”
>> While Oates didn’t originally plan to have Holtby play against the Flyers, he didn’t believe the outcome was the result of the goaltender’s performance.
“Neuvy was in my mind to get the start tonight based on schedule, but I think that was the team tonight,” Oates said. “It wasn’t Holts.”
It was tough to fault Holtby on the first three goals given the defensive breakdowns in front of him, but the 23-year-old knew he could have stopped Max Talbot’s long-range slap shot that made it 4-0.
“That fourth goal is mine to have, as simple as that. But we’ve got to put it behind us and move forward,” said Holtby, who added that he believed Oates made the right decision in pulling him in favor for Philipp Grubauer. More on Grubauer’s NHL debut to come on the blog later today.
“It’s four goals. He’s played great for us. Plus, the fourth goal, it looked like he should have had it,” Oates said of the decision to make the switch. “Just like everybody, he’s gonna take his lumps, too.”
Holtby’s outing against the Flyers hasn’t changed the fact that he is Oates’s go-to option in net right now. Oates said in his postgame comments that Holtby needs to regroup from the loss and focus on being prepared for Washington’s game Saturday afternoon at Winnipeg.
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