The Washington Capitals were looking for a crucial win over the Buffalo Sabres Sunday (Feb. 26) as newcomer Craig Smith made his debut in the Blue and Red. Unfortunately, they were unable to secure any points and the Sabres walked away with a 7-4 victory in a high-scoring affair. With the win, the Sabres will win the season series as they won their previous matchup, and only play the Capitals once more this season.
The Sabres have seemingly come out of nowhere and had success this season as their young guns have finally stepped up and begun to shine through, while the Capitals’ struggles remain as evident as ever. It was truly no surprise the Caps weren’t able to get it done. Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s early afternoon game.
Turnovers Killed Capitals’ Momentum
The Capitals started well, even outshooting the Sabres in the first period 11-10. They came out hot and stayed even for the majority of the period. Unfortunately, a bad turnover leading to Tage Thompson‘s 40th goal of the season set the tone for the rest of the game.
There were a few bad turnovers that led to high-danger chances by the Sabres, including a gaff by Alex Ovechkin leading to a Dylan Cozens breakaway. The Caps came out flat-footed in the second period after ending the first period tied 2-2; it was 6-2 halfway through the game.
Kuemper Was Off His Game
Darcy Kuemper has been really solid all season, but this game was an extremely off-game for him. He allowed five goals on 19 shots, which was a season-worst .737% save percentage. The first period was okay, but he had some holes that the Sabres found easily during the second, as the four unanswered goals came just seven minutes apart, and he allowed three in just under four minutes.
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I don’t expect this to happen again for Kuemper, as he’s been one of the strongest goalies in the NHL this season. I don’t think it will mess with his confidence either, and we’ll see him come back stronger in his next start. Charlie Lindgren replaced him and finished with 16 saves on 18 shots, keeping the game as close as he could near the end.
Depth Didn’t Play Well
The stars played well for the majority of the game. Dylan Strome, T.J. Oshie, and Alex Ovechkin led by example scoring goals and doing the little things right as they’re expected to do on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, the rest of the lineup didn’t stand out as much as they did. The lack of consistency in the bottom six has been apparent in the last few games, and the third defense pairing has been having a really bad stretch of games.
If the Capitals want to find themselves in a playoff spot at the end of the season, their depth players need to find some consistency. The Metropolitan Division is arguably the strongest in the league, and losing important games will move them out fast. They still have a shot at making the postseason as their neck and neck with a few teams around them in the standings, but they have to start playing well soon for that to happen.
What Next For The Capitals?
The Capitals are back in action Wednesday, March 1 against the Anaheim Ducks in another road game. It’s a very winnable game coming up, but the Caps can’t take them lightly. As we’ve seen plenty of times this season, anything can happen. It will be a big game for the Capitals as they look to find their mojo again, and move back into the win column.