Well, that was a dud. There were two obvious problems for the Caps in their 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils — offensive-zone penalties and a lack of well, offense.
Let’s tackle these issues one at a time, starting with the one that has been a problem for a long time:
Five penalties is managable, but four in one period is not. Also, four of the five were in the offensive zone, which has to be about the most frustrating thing for a coach to deal with.
Bruce Boudreau called them dumb. Mike Knuble called them frustrating. Tyler Sloan called them lazy (and yes, on this night Sloan earned the right to call other people’s mistakes lazy).
Alexander Semin has a reputation for taking the odd offensive-zone hooking call, but three in one game is a new low (at least I think it is). The first one was iffy and the third one was clearly out of frustration, but those are bad excuses. Brendan Morrison also got hit with one, and it led to the eventual game-winer.
“They’re automatic penalties, and it wasn’t like it was Mathieu Perreault getting them or Tyler Sloan as a forward,” Boudreau said. “When you go behind the net and put your stick on a guy, you’re going to get a penalty. … These guys know this and they are just dumb penalties.”
This is not a new phenomenon. The Caps took too many penalties last year, and it feels like it is snowballing a bit.
Boudreau summed it up pretty well — the Sloan-Perreault-Clark line was the team’s best tonight, and no disrespect to those guys but that’s not a good thing. The other three lines didn’t have a lot to offer offensively.
Mike Green and Brooks Laich had four shots each (I actually thought Green had a very nice game — seemed like he was more willing to handle the puck and push the tempo on offense than he has earlier this year), but Semin was either MIA or not converting the couple of decent chances he had.
To me, it was pretty telling that Boudreau put six skaters on the ice with Semyon Varlamov pulled and No. 28 was not among them.
Here’s the deal — people can’t say, ‘Oh, they didn’t have Ovechkin so that’s why they can’t score.’ Look at New Jersey’s lineup — the Caps still have more offensive talent than the Devils, and especially since they were missing Patrick Elias and Paul Martin.
So while the Caps would certainly enjoy more games like that from Mathieu Perreault (two points in his NHL debut), the other top-six guys not named Ovechkin are going to have to be much better.
In the end, the penalties and lack of offense doomed what was heading toward a very nice night for Varlamov. He was carrying the Caps, who were outplayed from about the middle of the second period on, but the penalties proved to be too much.
“Third periods for our goaltenders — we’ve been asking way too much,” Mike Knuble said. “They’re not guys who will complain about it, but if I was a goalie I would be shaking my head a little bit and thinking, ‘What are these guys doing to me?’”
Here’s the final thought of the night: The Washington Capitals have played 15 games, and they have lost seven of them. Regulation, overtime, shootout — it doesn’t matter. If they lose Friday, they will have lost half of their games.
Do teams that win the Stanley Cup typically lose half their games?