- The Washington Times - Friday, November 16, 2001

PHILADELPHIA The easiest thing to do would be to rip the Washington Capitals apart after another embarrassing performance. But that's been done already this season, far too often for just 19 games.
The truth of the matter is, the Caps are in over their heads right now attempting to play against NHL competition with their current roster.
There appears no other way to explain a series of recent performances that make humiliation sound like a compliment. The competitive spirit seems to have subsided as mistakes compound themselves and opponents turn them into goals.
Four minutes into last night's game, the Philadelphia Flyers sat back and relaxed. The game was over for all practical purposes, the home team already up by a three-spot on just seven shots. The final was 5-0, with the Caps offering little resistance in their fourth shutout loss.
It also would be easy to blame Olie Kolzig, because he was the goalie who let in those goals. But Kolzig or Ken Dryden, Georges Vezina or anybody else has not perfected the art of playing alone, which is what his teammates have been asking him to do.
"We're under siege; our defense is under siege," coach Ron Wilson said. "After we got by the first five minutes, then at least we competed and had a number of scoring chances, but we didn't score. At least we buckled down, limited the number of shots and chances. Right now it's pretty obvious we're missing some guys who get the job done defensively."
What has been a dismal season so far (6-11-2) is turning into a disaster. The time span for traditional horrendous Washington starts is long since past, but there has been no sign of a rebound, which has also been traditional.
Last night's onslaught came after an 11-5 trashing by Ottawa on Tuesday night, the most goals the Caps have given up in any game since November, 1983. The 11 goals tied the Caps record for most allowed at home, and this is their 28th season. It was the most goals ever scored by Ottawa in its 10 years.
What has become enormously apparent is that the Caps need experienced help soon, and at more than one position. Jaromir Jagr, the $78 million investment hired to push the team over the last hurdle, was a non-factor again, linemates who mesh with his style still not found. Whether he is still bothered by knee strain or is waiting for a center of his liking is not known.
The defensive corps has been trying to play without half its normal complement, two out with injuries and one attending to a death in his family. Brendan Witt may return in time for tomorrow's game against Anaheim, and Ken Klee is getting closer; Calle Johansson is out for the season.
The left side was not very strong to begin with and has been weakened significantly by the long-term loss of Steve Konowalchuk, the club's best defensive forward (who also scored 24 goals last season). Instead of center being one of the team's strengths, it has been shown to be surprisingly thin.
Last night it started early, 44 seconds into the game, the earliest the Caps have let in a goal this season. Keith Primeau was atop Kolzig and unchecked as he banged in a pass through the crease on the game's second shot.
Nineteen seconds later, Peter Bondra took a bad penalty, and the Flyers quickly made him pay. At 2:18, Jiri Dopita redirected a perfect feed from Kim Johnsson and it was 2-0 on the game's fourth shot.
At 3:40, Primeau broke in on a shorthanded breakaway, Kolzig made the stop but couldn't protect the rebound. Even though Washington was on the power play and had the extra man, Kolzig discovered he was alone as Mark Recchi rapped the rebound into the net unchecked and with ease.
John LeClair added a power play score in the second, about 10 minutes before starting Flyers goalie Brian Boucher left the ice with what appeared to be a leg injury. He was replaced by Roman Cechmanek.
"Obviously, maybe, I'm responsible for tonight," Bondra said. "I took a bad penalty, and they scored the second goal. We try too hard maybe the problem but we want to win. But we got to win within the system, the way we're supposed to play and we pretty much did, except for the first few minutes."
By then it was over.


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