Welcome to the newest feature here on Capitals Watch: Morning After. It’s a shortened season, so there’s less time to pick over the details of each game, but as Brooks Laich said recently, it also means: “it’s not like the NFL, but in a way that every single game is gonna be scrutinized so much more.”
So, welcome. I’m essentially stealing my colleague Rich Campbell’s “Initial Thoughts” blog idea, renaming it and doing it with the Caps instead of the Redskins. The idea is to give you, the reader a full meal of details and analysis from the most recent game.
Enjoy your breakfast:
GAME 10: MAPLE LEAFS 3, CAPITALS 2 (2-7-1, 5 points, last in Southeast, last in East, last in NHL)
There was chaos on one goal against and a deflection on another, but coach Adam Oates said the difference in Tuesday night’s loss to Toronto was how deflating the first goal allowed was.
The debacle started when defenseman John Carlson took an ill-advised shot that whistled so high and wide it rimmed all the way around the boards and back into the Caps’ end. From there, defenseman Tom Poti and Michal Neuvirth gave the puck away behind the net.
Let’s let goaltender Neuvirth, Poti, Oates and Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk explain.
“Just miscommunication between me and Neuvy,” Poti said. “I think he thought I was gonna get open for a pass and I thought he was gonna leave the puck there.”
“I had the puck, I saw he was coming towards me,” Neuvirth said. “I left the puck for him there but easy goal for them.”
“I was skating down and I was going to kind of hold up, but I saw them kind of looking at each other like who was going to take the puck and it was just sitting there, so I went to go grab it and was able to just kind of wrap it in,” van Riemsdyk said.
“We had plenty of time, we didn’t execute, little miscommunication with [Neuvirth] and the defenseman,” Oates said
So what’s supposed to happen on that play?
“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.”
Said Neuvirth: “It’s tough to say, definitely if the D wants the puck from me they usually go to the corner.”
Instead Poti went behind the net, and things went badly quickly. Van Riemsdyk flew around and had the easiest of his six goals this season.
Oates called it a “huge deflater.”
“We gave ‘em the first one, and really is the issue, the first one. And that’s our fault,” he said. “Obviously I thought about calling a timeout and I said, ‘You know what? We’re going to need that timeout later,’ And it’s up to the next line to establish the game back because we weren’t getting outplayed.”
Sometimes getting deflated like that is worse than getting outplayed. Being outplayed can sometimes be written off, but it’s tough when that kind of miscommunication sets the tone for a game.
For what it’s worth, Oates said he didn’t regret not using the timeout.
The second goal the Caps allowed to the Maple Leafs was the result of a turnover by Alex Ovechkin that led to an odd-man rush and scrambly hockey in the defensive zone. There wasn’t much Neuvirth could do.
Defenseman Karl Alzner appeared to be trying to defend everyone in the zone at the same time. It’s not an easy task when on the ice with Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro, Wojtek Wolski and Mike Green. There’s offensive power there, but it’s fitting that none of them have a “D” in their names.
Neuvirth probably should have stopped the third goal, which defenseman Korbinian Holzer scored off Jason Chimera’s stick. While deflections usually are impossible to fault goalies for, Chimera was at the top of the circle, so Neuvirth had time.
“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.”
He wasn’t the only one who couldn’t believe it. But Oates, when asked if he needed better goaltending, didn’t want to put this loss on Neuvirth.
“I can’t count the miscommunication as goaltending. Obviously I don’t want that play, but I can’t blame Neuvy for that because it’s unfortunate it went in,” the Caps’ coach said. “Other than that, they had two goals.”
Time for some silver linings. Marcus Johansson scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday night, on the power play.
“Of course I’d rather have the ‘W,’ ” Johansson said. “But it’s always good to get that first one out of the way. But unfortunately it didn’t really help today. We just got to keep working.”
Defenseman Tomas Kundratek picked up his first career NHL point on the pass to Johansson.
“He made a great play on the goal. Great play. And it was a big goal for us,” Oates said. “And you know what? He’s come up and I coached him a little bit in Hershey and I liked him and I liked what I saw and I think he’s done a great job when he’s been here so far.”