Caps Fall to the Maple Leafs, 3-2 by Usvaldo de Leon
Midway through the 2nd, John Walton, the Voice of the Capitals, made a statement that encapsulated this confounding game: “Folks, I know the Caps are losing, but they have played a pretty good game.” Walton felt it necessary to issue that qualifier to distinguish last night’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs from all the times the Caps have come out and stunk up the joint.
These sorts of games happen, where the Caps’ opponents are able to capitalize on all their mistakes while the Caps cannot sink any shots. Sometimes the shots don’t fall. However, teams that lose 8 of their first 10 games and are headed for seemingly certain defeat tomorrow in Pittsburgh do not get the benefit of the doubt. Hence Walton’s statement: No, seriously, the dog really DID eat our homework.
How can the Capitals be expected to win when Tom Poti loses his mind, leaves the puck loose on the ice for James Van Riemsdyk to swoop in and score unopposed, to give the Leafs a lead they would never relinquish? Van Riemsdyk set up by the net and poached a rebound, drilling it past 3 Caps in the crease.
Meanwhile on the other end, Ben Scrivens a goalie in his 16th NHL game, played like the lovechild of Marty Brodeur and Patrick Roy, stopping several big shots, including flat out robberies of Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle. Scrivens let 2 power play goals slip past, one apiece from Marcus Johansson and Mike Ribeiro. However, in the end, the Capitals did not have enough to force overtime.
In other bad news, the Caps continued to not be able to win faceoffs, a factor which led directly to a goal by the Penguins on Sunday (although, to be fair, that game was so lopsided the Caps could have won every faceoff and lost convincingly). They were at 40% Tuesday night in faceoffs, mainly due to Nicklas Backstrom, who took 16 faceoffs (tops on the team) and lost 69% of them. He is under 50% for the year – in fact he is 8th in faceoff percentage this season. As I understand the concept, a coach wants the appropriate line for when the team wins the faceoff – but you have to WIN the faceoff first.
Special teams did improve: The Caps killed 3 penalties and were 2 of 3 on the power play. Mike Ribeiro continues to play fantastic, now with 11 points in 9 games. And it is important to not lose perspective. Yes, the Caps are the worst team in hockey (not just the NHL: ALL of hockey), but they remain only 4 points out of a playoff spot. If the Capitals can get it together and stay in striking distance this month, the Caps should play much better in March and April.