When Joe Corvo scores, you're going to have a bad time. (Yahoo!)
The Washington Capitals lost their third consecutive game on Tuesday night, being shut out on their home ice by the Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes by a final score of 4-0. After Marcus Johansson missed a tap-in early in the game, it all went downhill for Washington from there, who were unable to score on home ice and shut out by third-string Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters (who has been remarkably good against Washington in his career, to his credit). With the loss, Washington moves to 10-14-1 and are now back in 14th place in the NHL and 29th in the NHL.
This was a gut-punch of a loss. The Capitals came into this evening’s game with a chance to make up ground against a Division rival and put themselves back into the playoff hunt with a win. Instead, they were outshot heftily on their own ice and, down 3-0 in the third period, did not muster a shot on goal until just over seven minutes were left in regulation time. They needed a big performance from everyone on the roster and didn’t get it, and now face an even bigger uphill climb to make the dance. It’s tough to win with an AHL blue line like the Capitals have now, and the injuries to key players on the back end hurt even more when you are going up against a good offensive team like Carolina. Decision time is getting closer.
Braden Holtby was stellar for some stretches tonight, but also cannot allow that first goal from Joe Corvo, of all people, in to the net. Tuesday was the second consecutive game that Holtby allowed a goal from behind the line to be banked in off his body. Holtby is the guy, and he’s earned his playing time over the last five weeks. But after two games in which he could not keep a deflating and soft first goal from ending up in the back of the net, perhaps it’s time to give Michal Neuvirth another chance. The kid has been sitting on the pine for the better part of a month and a half. A little competition never hurt anyone.
Alex Ovechkin looked good for the first 30 minutes tonight, pushing the pace and feeding his teammates for chances that they failed to convert on. He cycled well and was aggressive on the forecheck, despite the fact that he had zero shots on goal all night. But after the Caps went down 3-0, he (and everyone else) just stopped motoring. There was no urgency from anywhere on the roster, save a fight from Steven Oleksy early in the third to try and get them going a bit. It’s a tad discouraging to see the team wilt like that, especially with their leadership under fire; this team would have never sat back the way they did tonight two years ago. They get another chance to pick up the intensity on Thursday, but at this point it all has to start at the top with Ovechkin.
I take back everything I ever said about the first round of the 2003 draft. Ok, maybe not, but Eric Fehr sure has been great during his second tenure in Washington. Fehr, signed by George McPhee for $600,000 just before the season started to the chagrin of many, has been very good in almost any role he has been given of late, easily earning his price tag for the season and becoming a force on offense. It’s tough to judge if Fehr can keep this up, because he has had hot streaks like this before only to fall down, but if he can, he could turn in to a valuable asset at the deadline or, perhaps even a low-cost value play for this team in the future.
This is one of those losses where you have to look out and re-evaluate what is going on here. I will reiterate once more that I feel this is a personnel issue, not a coaching issue, and that Dale Hunter would not make this go any better. There are a ton of problems facing this squad at the moment: inconsistency, injuries, and a top-heavy roster to name three. It’s past time to wait for it to boomerang at this point. What is to be gained by treading water and frittering away assets for this?
The Capitals will practice on Wednesday morning at Kettler before travelling to Raleigh for the second half of their home-and-home with this Carolina team. That game starts at 7 on Thursday evening.
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.