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Caps Dominated; Fall to Leafs 7-1

After starting the season to a sizzling 7-0 start, the Capitals have now lost 4 straight and 6 of the last 7.  To make matters worse, the Capitals scored only 1 goal in each of their games this week, while allowing the other team to cash in for 14.  To say that the Capitals are in a bad place is an understatement.  On to the goals.

TOR Goal: Connolly(2) from Lupul
Schultz gets all the blame on this one.  As the Caps attempt the breakout, Lupul presses Schultz.  As opposed to throwing it up the boards, or around the net to his partner, Hamrlik, Schultz attempts to throw the puck across the middle of the ice.  The puck bounces off Lupul and into the corner, where Schultz stands no chance to win the battle.  Lupul simply feeds Connolly, who is rushing down the nearboards, and he fires an easy wrister past Vokoun. 

I also want to throw some blames on Bruce for this one.  I do not know why he thought pairing Schultz and Hamrlik together was going to end with success.  Neither of them has close to anything that would be viewed as speed.  While it would have been hard for anyone to get over to stop Connolly, it is especially hard for someone with Hamrlik’s lack of speed.

WSH Goal: Laich(3) from Chimera and Carlson
Not anything for Caps fans to be proud of here.  Chimera drove down the LW boards, dropping the puck back to Laich after entering the zone.  Chimera simply drove the net as Laich fired a simple slapper from the point.  The slapper seemed to deflect off Franson and got past Gustavsson.  When harmless slappers deflecting off defencemen is the only way the Capitals can find goals, it is not a good place.

TOR Goal: Frattin(1) from Colborne and Franson
A quick up from Franson, allows the Leafs to cash in off the rush.  Kulemin’s hard drive to the net pushes back the pairing of Wideman and Schultz, while Frattin simply skates into the space.  With Schultz giving Frattin all the time he wants, and both Johansson and Ovechkin not there to back-check, Frattin simply wrists one past Vokoun. 

Lots of fault to go around here.  First, Schultz is way too timid.  Either he doesn’t read the fact that Frattin is shooting or he is too worried about looking bad.  Then you have Johansson.  He is the 4th man back for the Caps (with Ovechkin still up ice with both TOR defenders) and is simply not skating hard.  As soon as he sees Semin covering Colborne and the D backing up with Kulemin, Johansson needs to read that pass coming across to Frattin.  By the time he realizes this, all he can do is wave his stick and watch the red light come on behind Vokoun.

TOR Goal: Bozak(2) from Lupul and Phaneuf
This was a great example of the Leafs’ ability to cycle the puck, and the Caps’ inability to stop it.  Phaneuf pinches in on the near boards, getting past Ward too easily, and drops it off to Lupul below the goal line.  As Phaneuf cuts across the high slot, Bozak rushes the net, where he find the pass from Lupul and shovels it into the net. 

This was a direct result of the Caps being unable to communicate coverage effectively.  Alzner, correctly, presses Lupul.  Carlson, who had come out to challenge Phaneuf, tries to cut-off the pass to Bozak but is too late.  This leaves only the forward, Chimera, to try to stop Bozak.  Somehow with Ward, Chimera, Alzner, and Carlson all down low to work against 3 Leafs, a goal is scored.  Giving up goals when you are winning the numbers game is not how you win games.  At worst, Chimera needs to just haul down Bozak.  Still, Ward is the initial problem, having been beat by Phaneuf at the point.

TOR Goal: Kessel(14) from Bozak and Lupul
Once again, the Capitals are beaten off the rush.  Lupul collects a loose puck on the far goal line.  After simply brushing off a check from Semin, he feeds Bozak on the edge of the crease.  Bozak, who is being pressed by both Wideman and Erskine, tosses it out to Kessel who has a lay-up for his 14th of the season. 

This is another example of poor D-zone coverage by the forwards.  This time it is Backstrom and Ovechkin.  As Lupul finds space, both Ovechkin and Backstrom press to him.  This creates an issue as all 5 Capitals are currently on the far-side of the ice.  When Bozak receives the pass, only Erskine stands a chance of stopping a pass to Kessel.  If either Ovechkin or Backstrom stay disciplined, then they would have been there to back-check on Kessel.  I also have to call into question Erskine’s positioning.  He has to realize that all of his forwards are out of position and come off of Bozak, even a little bit.  Wideman has Bozak covered enough.

TOR Goal: Lupul(10) from Phaneuf and Kessel
With Backstrom in the box serving a double minor (cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct), the Leafs were able to cash in for their second power play goal of the game.  After some nice passes above the circles, Kessel finds a seam in the penalty killers to fire a cross-ice pass to Phaneuf.  Phaneuf simply throws to puck to the far post, where Lupul easily directs it past Neuvirth (who has come in for Vokoun after the Kessel goal). 

The key to this goal was Phaneuf getting half a step on Laich.  Hamrlik, seeing that there is no way Laich will get over to stop Phaneuf from firing the puck, puts some pressure on Phaneuf.  With 3 Leafs rushing the net they are in a good place, numbers wise.  Erskine, who had been playing away from the net, rushes back to cover the net, but cannot get there in time to cover Lupul.  The key to this play was the cross-ice pass to Phaneuf.  When the Caps were playing well, they were routinely picking off cross-ice passes when short a man.  Not the case Saturday night.

TOR Goal: Franson(1) from Connolly
With Erskine off for delay of game (actually shot the puck out of play behind TOR goal), the Leafs registered their 3rd power play goal of the game.  This would mark the 1st time the Caps surrendered 3 PPGs in a single game this season.  After entering the zone, the Leafs isolated the near-side point with Connolly and Franson.  Franson’s first shot was blocked by Halpern, but a quick re-load gave him another shot.  This one found its way past Halpern and ended up behind Neuvirth.

This one was a simple result of the Caps giving up.  They had already given up 5 goals without ever coming close to a 2nd for them.  Backstrom had just been released from a double minor and Erskine was still in the box.  Halpern appeared to be putting in some effort but it was not enough.  Also the Caps were actually killing the penalty with 3 forwards and 1 defender.  Somehow they decided that it would be better for Backstrom to work the slot instead of Schultz.  Backstrom was there covering Frattin at first, but he failed to see Frattin move out to the circle.  What resulted was Backstrom just standing in the slot, doing nothing but screening Neuvirth.  This was the epitome of not caring.

TOR Goal: Steckel(4) from Kulemin
The third period actually appeared decent for the Caps.  Against a Leafs team was simply sitting back and just trying to get out of the game, the Caps were able to generate some decent chances, albeit 0 goals.  With less than a minute to go, they found themselves on the power play.  On the entry, Kulemin pressured Carlson at the point creating a turnover.  He simply threw the puck into space and Steckel picked it up.  The former Caps was in all alone and beat Neuvirth with a simple wrister.

Carlson needs to do better at the point.  He knows he is being pressed and tries to beat Kulemin as opposed to just dumping it.  He also got no help from Johansson, who was less than 5 feet from him.  Even if the Caps could have stopped Steckel, they frankly didn’t care. 

It has become apparent that there is a problem with the Caps.  The question that McPhee and Leonsis need to answer is whether or not the problem is with Boudreau or whether it is with the players.  Hopefully we see something different when the Coyotes comes to town on Monday.

Filed in: | F Street Faithful | Permalink
  Tags: toronto+maple+leafs, washington+capitals

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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 overtheboard@gmail.com.