F Street Faithful
The Washington Capitals, after starting the season on a 7 game winning streak, are officially now on their first losing streak of the season. Unlike the game in Edmonton, the Caps will be unable to blame this loss on “not getting the right bounces.” The Caps may have finally put together a second period worth remembering, but their 1st and 3rd periods were downright awful, especially defense-wise.
The Capitals were handed their first loss of the seasons Thursday night by the Edmonton Oilers. Despite showing near-complete domination in the 3rd period, the Caps were unable to overcome a slew of penalties that saw them shorthanded on 8 occasions. Nikolai Khabibulin didn’t make things any easier for the Caps, making 34 saves on 35 shots and was spectacular when needed.
To say the Caps took a lot of penalties is a bit of an understatement. By the end of the game, the Caps had taken 9 minor penalties, 6 of which were stick infractions. They handed the Oilers 5 power plays in the 2nd period alone. The final count for both teams ended up as 9 penalties for the Caps and 6 for the Oilers. What is a bit upsetting to Caps’ fans is the fact that the Caps were whistled for all 9 penalties in the first 2 periods while the Oilers were only whistled for 3. Prior to Thursday night, the Caps were the least penalized time in the league. Only the game against Pittsburgh saw the Caps take more penalties than their opposition. In my game write-up for the Pittsburgh game, I credited the discrepancy to the fact that the Caps didn’t work hard enough to deserve power plays, while the Penguins did.
The Edmonton game was a whole different beast.
The Washington Capitals are now the last remaining undefeated team thanks to a 7-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. For the second consecutive game the Capitals have gone up against a playoff-favorite and responded by putting up a combined 12 goals and only conceding 3. While it has to be said that Detroit did have to play the night prior and then travel to Washington, it should not take anything away from this victory.
The Washington Capitals continued their impressive start to the season as they handed the Philadelphia Flyers their first regulation loss of the season by a score of 6-2. Despite a second period that saw the Flyers dominating the time of possession, the Caps played a rather sound game at both ends of the ice. Even when the Flyers did go one their runs of dominance, the Caps’ defense forced them to keep the puck along the board and at the point, effectively leading to them taking some low quality shots. When the Flyers did manage to get the puck into the slot, Vokoun was magnificent as he repeatedly stone walled the Flyers forwards.
Even with the great game by Vokoun, fans have to be most pleased with the 2-goal performance by Alex Ovechkin. While we may never see Ovechkin put up the goals he used to, I think it surprised most people that it took him 6 games to record a multi-point night or score a goal that wasn’t a deflection. Ovechkin, like the majority of his teammates, has gotten progressively better over the winning streak but he needs to keep working. The days are long gone when he could just skate in the zone, fire the puck at will and expect to put up 50 goals. Both goals last night were a result of Ovechkin getting to open areas and being ready. For Ovechkin the shot volume does matter, but so does shot location and timing.
For the first time in their 37-year history, the Washington Capitals have begun a season with 5 consecutive wins thanks to a 3-0 win over a much beleaguered Florida Panthers. Over this 5-game stretch, the Caps have netted 17 goals and only allowed 11. They are now 1 of only 3 teams in the Eastern Conference (with Philadelphia and Toronto) to remain undefeated in regulation thus far and are the only true undefeated team. While a 5-0-0 run is bound to contain multiple high points, the best sign during this run is that the Caps have gotten progressively better, particularly in their own end, shown by allowing only 1 goal over the past 2 games.
On more than a few occasions in the past few seasons, the Caps played in some ugly games. These were games in which the team seemed to lack any sense of offensive consistency or chemistry. Needless to say, these typically ended up as a mark in the loss column. Last night’s game against the Penguins had all of the makings to be one of those games. The Caps were out-shot 41-19 last night, including 18-3 in the 3rd period, where the Penguins tied the game late. They spent prolonged periods of time simply trying to get the puck on the Penguins’ side of the ice, usually only to dump it in and change lines, as they were exhausted by the furious fore-check by the Penguins.
Despite all of these factors going against them, this year’s Caps escaped with a win, albeit in the form of a 3rd consecutive OT.
In yesterday’s recap, I remarked that Vokoun might have trouble sleeping due to the play of Neuvirth against Carolina. I can’t say for sure if that was true, but Vokoun was clearly not on the top of his game for his first start as a Capital. Vokoun surrendered 5 goals on 28 shots, including 3 from severe angles. Luckily for Vokoun, the offense showed up for him and managed to get him his first victory as a Cap, albeit one of the shootout variety.
It did not take long for the Lightning to pounce on Vokoun. From behind the goal line, Teddy Purcell threw the puck to the crease. The puck would click off Mike Green’s leg and past Vokoun. While not Vokoun’s fault, it still was a rough one to open up the game with. Six minutes later Bruno Gervais caught Vokoun leaning off his post and fired it past him from an almost impossible angle. That one Vokoun will have to take the blame for. He found himself in the doghouse once again when Brett Clark’s pass from inside the trapezoid clicked off Vokoun’s skate and into the net. He did find some redemption, however, in overtime when he stonewalled Stamkos on a set play and was perfect in the shootout. If you look at the game as a whole, Vokoun seemed like he could make impossible saves only to let in the “gimme”’s. I would not expect to see Vokoun play like that again this season.
I think it is fair to say Tomas Vokoun might feel a little uneasy as he lays in bed tonight. Vokoun, who found out earlier this week that he would not start, was forced to sit and watch as Michal Neuvirth absolutely stonewalled the Carolina Hurricanes. The score-line will show that the Hurricanes put 3 behind him, but he can’t be blamed for any of them. Let’s get to the breakdown.
Outside of Neuvirth, the biggest bright spot for the Capitals was their third line of Chimera, Laich, and Ward. Their combination of great speed and grit repeatedly hemmed the Canes’ top line in their own zone. Unfortunately, this line was unable to capitalize on any of their increased pressure. This was a theme found in all 4 even-strength lines. Several times throughout the game, especially around the midpoint of the second period, the Capitals were able to roll their lines without allowing the Hurricanes any sustained pressure. Luckily for the Caps, they were able to develop a couple of goals off the rush and, more importantly, the power play.
Tonight, hockey finally makes its return. While the Caps do not kick their season off until Sunday, there are some great games on the schedule tonight, so check them out. All Caps fans should have some interest in the Flyers/Bruins game (7pm on Versus), as former Cap Jaromir Jagr makes his return to the NHL after a 3-year stint playing in the KHL. I do not plan to try to hide my smile the first time he finds himself on the wrong end of a Zdeno Chara check.
As much as we all enjoy hockey in all forms, it all comes down to the team from D.C. as they once again begin their quest for the Cup. It all starts with Carolina as they look for their first win since they eliminated the Rangers in game 5 of round 1 last spring. Here are my predictions:
The Washington Capitals just announced that they have signed Jason Chimera to a 2 year contract. Chimera, 32, was entering the final year of his $1.875 million/year contract that he signed 4 years ago in Columbus. The terms of the contract are 2 years 3.5 million (cap hit 1.75 a year).
Last year Chimera tallied 10 goals and 16 assists in 81 regular season games and 2 goals and 2 assists in 9 playoff games. With the summer signings of Brouwer and Ward I was wondering if Chimera was in the long-term plan for the Capitals but GMGM seems to like the guy. It will be nice for the Caps to have that 3rd/4th line speed for the next couple of years and his toughness ranks among the top in the team. It is also worth noting that his 3 career playoff goals have all been game winners, including the 2OT winner in game 4 against the Rangers.
I do like this signing but I worry about the Caps ability to resign some of the other core guys now. Green and Carlson will both be restricted free agents at the end of the year and Alex Semin will be unrestricted free agent.
About F Street Faithful
Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.