Quick Hits: Stuck In the Mud. Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 3

The Washington Capitals dropped another game on Tuesday night, falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 inside Verizon Center.  The Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead off a pair of goals from offseason acquisition James van Riemsdyk and after Marcus Johansson cut the lead in half, Korbinian Holzer restored the two-goal cushion midway through the second period.  Mike Ribeiro, who continued to be great all over the ice, scored on a power play in the third to make it close, but the Caps could get no closer, and dropped to 2-7-1 on the season.  They are now dead last in the NHL with five standings points.  Some quick hits:

John Carlson looked better tonight.  The Capitals’ young defenseman, who has been on the ice for 21 of the 35 goals Washington has allowed this season, was more aggressive and assertive in his puck handing during this game and seemed to be gaining a bit of confidence.  He made a hilariously terrible error in the late stages that was wiped out by David Steckel missing an open net, but other than that, looked a lot better.  This was hopefully a turn around game for him.

Michal Neuvirth let in another soft goal, this time on a screened point shot that changed directions, but also made some huge saves in the second and third periods to keep the game close and the Capitals in reach.  Neither he nor Braden Holtby have been exceptional this season, but Neuvirth has been better.  That is without doubt, and until Holtby proves otherwise (no, the playoffs last year don’t count), Neuvirth will probably continue to get starts.

Alex Ovechkin has got to be better.  Another secondary assist for the captain puts his totals at two goals (none at even strength) and three assists (one at even strength) on the season, 112th in the NHL.  Again: the man with the highest cap hit in the NHL is 112th in scoring, and his team is dead last.  Something has got to give.  I mean seriously, how are more people not on this guy’s case?

Adam Oates was, in my opinion, an okay choice to replace Dale Hunter as the head coach of this team.  I thought that he would be the best option to help revive Ovechkin; I now don't know at this point if anyone could do that.  Plus, there was the obvious drawback of him having no head coaching experience.  This transition was always going to take time and be difficult; I didn’t think at the time of the hire and I don’t think now that this was a hire similar to Hunter: a quick fix.  I think that what Oates is doing here is very deep-seated on many levels and difficult for this team to pick up.  It was a risky hire, and McPhee put his butt on the line with the hire, but at the same time, at some point, it is no longer about the coaching and about the players.  Like Ovechkin.  Oates hasn’t been good, but he is getting no help from what he is coaching.

Overall, I think that this club is not very good, but that there is room for improvement.  The defense is too talented to keep breaking down like this; they will get better.  Karl Alzner and John Carlson are too good to keep blowing coverage and whiffing on pucks the way they have been.  Tomas Kundratek also looked good tonight.  Still, they need to make a change.  It starts with a certain someone on the roster, but there is a lot of fat on this team right now that needs to be trimmed.  Whether George McPhee and Ted Leonsis have the gall to do it is another story, but maybe this team does just need to cut its losses and move on without some key pieces in order to get things back in trades.

If the NHL season ended today, the Capitals would pick either Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon first or second overall.  Yes, please.

Washington plays next on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.  Wheee!

Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.

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