Well, the Caps nearly made it one-quarter of the way into the season without falling behind by more than two goals. That run ended tonight as Washington got blown out for the first time this year tonight here at The Rock.
A couple of things before we get to the mess that was the final 55 minutes of this game …
* Boyd Gordon did not play in the final 31 minutes. Bruce Boudreau said he injured his back. He didn’t say he re-injured the same area, but that’s a strong possibility.
* If Gordon is going to be out for a while again, this works in Mathieu Perreault’s favor. There were two forwards coming back (Alex Ovechkin and Gordon) that were possibly going to push him back to Hershey. Now two forwards might be out for a while (Mike Knuble for sure and possibly Gordon) and he’s back sitting pretty. And Perreault kept playing well tonight. He had a goal and four shots on net — and was one of the few guys consistently creating chances.
* The Devils clinched the season series and now own the tiebreaker against the Caps if the two teams were to finish the season with the same number of points. Not sure how much that matters since a) the Devils are the best road team in hockey right now and b) there is little to no home-ice advantage in this building. If anything, a postseason series against the Devils might be the best chance for Caps fans to get tickets to road playoff games.
Alright, now it is onto the carnage:
* Just a quick thought (something I should have asked in the dressing room or to Bruce Boudreau, even if there might not have been an honest answer), I wonder if all of the “Is Ovechkin coming back tonight?” talk had an effect on the other guys? Maybe they were let down that he didn’t play. Maybe they let up because they know he might be back Tuesday.
Or maybe that didn’t matter at all. Just a thought.
* Last night Josh Harding was great, and the ragged Minnesota Wild were able to hang with the Caps despite playing two games in two nights. Tonight th Caps were playing their second game in as many nights but the goaltending wasn’t up to par. The difference was pretty evident.
Theodore was pretty hard on himself after the game, but probably not quite as critical as Bruce Boudreau …
“I don’t know if I see anything wrong with him, he’s just got to stop the puck,” Boudreau said. “The power play goal was a clear shot by Langenbrunner, no screen. I know Parise’s was a breakaway, but he made it look pretty easy. The next one was short side over the blocker from outside the dot. Those things, Jose’s got to stop.”
Boudreau wasn’t having any of the beginnings of a goalie controversy, but it looks like there is a pretty clear opening here for Semyon Varlamov to earn some extra starts.
The numbes are pretty clear: Varlamov has stopped 55 of 57 shots in his past two appearances, while Theodore has stopped 20 of 28 in his last two starts and 125 of 147 (.850 save percenteage) in his last six games.
“I’m really not happy with the way I’ve played the past couple of games,” Theodore said. “I don’t think it is any I’ve done differently with technique or work ethic. It is just about having that jump that I had and getting back to being really focused.”
Added Boudreau: “He had a bad game and he’ll be ready to go the next time he starts, I hope. His history is he plays a whole bunch of good games and then a couple of bad games and then he turns it around because hee’s mentally strong. We’re hoping the same situation occurs.”
* Jose Theodore had a bad night, but he might not have been the goat on this night. That “honor” might belong to Alexander Semin, who wasn’t bad from start to finish (wasn’t great either) but he made a terrible, terrible play at the absolute worst time.
With the score tied at two, Semin carried the puck into the offensive zone along the right wing. Some of his teammates — including both defensemen — went to the bench for change (as the crew over at @JapersRink pointed out, Semin’s line had been on the ice for more than a minute).
So instead of chipping the puck in deep, or trying to hold it and wait for reinforcements to arrive, he threw a pass into the middle of the ice. That’s a bad play in a mites game, let alone an NHL franchise known for clogging the middle and capitalizing on dumb turnovers.
Travis Zajac picked off the pass, sent it Zach Parise as part of a 2-in-0 break and the rest was history.
“It is not the way we play, and you can only tell certain people so many times,” Boudreau said. “That was the biggest goal against us to that point. We wanted to get it deep and work them in the corners, but we turned it around and gave them a breakaway.”
Is Boudreau upset enough to possibly reduce Semin’s ice time or even bench him for a game? That would be quite a message — inserting Ovechkin into the lineup and taking Semin out, but Gordon’s injury might nullify that option.
* Tomas Flesichmann scored his seventh goal in nine games … and was a minus-four. Nicklas Backstrom was a minus-three and only played 15:38. If your best forward is out with an injury, your second-best (or third depending on the night) forward should probably play more than that, no? Backstrom was relatively invisible when he did play, so it might have been a coach’s decision — he actually took one less shift at even strength than Chris Clark and only one more than Perreault.