Most teams with a propensity to rally from behind would project a favorable result when they are 8-3-0 when trailing first and have the offensive power the Capitals on their roster. However, as a team that fails to play consistently, the Caps went down 1-0 in the first period Friday afternoon against the New York Rangers and never could come back, losing 6-3.
Riding a two-game winning streak on their three-game homestand and Michal Neuvirth, who has done well against the Rangers lately, getting the start, it would have been safe to predict a closer game. Considering the Rangers’ typically low shot totals (they had the fewest shots in the NHL coming into the game), a 2-1 or 3-1 score would have been more likely to occur.
However, due to a considerable amount of mental lapses including poor decision-making near both bluelines and turnovers, the Capitals had a hard time setting up for a victory over one of the hotter teams in the league. It’s understandable, too, as it’s difficult to win turning over the puck 17 times and allowing 33 shots from a team that has been able to find ways to win despite their low shot totals.
“It started with us bringing the puck back way too much,” said Troy Brouwer. “Instead of getting pucks forward and getting pucks deep, we brought pucks back and gave them opportunities.”
Talking about one of the goals that was caused by a Dennis Wideman turnover, Brouwer added, “He made a good rush up, but then he could have dumped it in and the he could have kept going, but then he made that extra deke”
Such situations set Neuvirth up to be doomed and caught off guard and unable to make the stop.
After a solid first period, where the Caps did a good job of taking the body and working the Rangers, Neuvirth suffered from “a lack of confidence in his game right now” since “he’s not used to getting scored on.”
Boudreau then alluded to the fact that the team tries to do too many moves to get back into a game, and while this was not evident in the last two wins, the Caps have been burned by this before: most memorably in this game, the 7-1 loss in Toronto, and the 4-1 loss in Winnipeg.
“We want to stay with the program — we try to play safe. When you’re down a goal, guys are trying t do a little too much and defenseman are starting to come up with the play, and trying to make the perfect play, rather than trying to keep things simple. This whole league is about winning one to one battles.
“I’m sure that if you’re a skilled player and you’ve been doing it you’re whole life you always feel you can make that play.”
The players’ responses coincided with their head coach’s. They, too, acknowledged that they need to keep things simple instead of forcing the issue.
“If you feel like you have to play a little bit more defensively than you do, but if you feel like you can jump into the play and make something happen, then you do. When you’re in the offensive zone or the neutral zone, you’ve just got to play.”
“You have to stick to the things that you were taught,” said John Carlson, who scored the third goal against the Rangers, “get it in deep and play behind their goalline, cycle it and try not to make fancy plays — just do black and white plays no matter where you are on the ice. It seems to be a lot easier like that, and after a while when you get on a roll then you can start experimenting with the skilled plays.”
A lot of it is in the mindset from the very beginning, as Karl Alzner would state. “We’re getting too down,” said Alzner. “As soon as we get a goal scored against us it kind of feels like it’s the end of the world. Its just one goal. It’s bound to happen every game. We’re killing out momentum by having them score and then giving up another one.”
The one bright spot in Friday’s game would be that Ovechkin, despite the final score, had a pretty solid game. Aside from finally scoring his own goal at the Verizon Center for the first time this season, he was involved in all three of Washington’s goals and gave the team that extra boost of energy when out there, laying out eight hits.
Washington plays on the road Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres. With a string of bad games broken up by a two-game aberration, as Kings of Leonsis writer Adam Vingan called the last two wins, the Caps still try to to earn wins in a consistent fashion. It seems the players know what the problem is — now they need to go out and show that they do. Starting with a consistent mindset going into games might start helping the Caps find their winning ways.