Yeah, it was that kind of night. (SB Nation)
The Washington Capitals had their modest two-game winning streak snapped Thursday night in Ohio, falling 5-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Caps were down from the start, giving up a shorthanded goal after 12 minutes. The Jackets would add one more in the first and then two more in the second before Joel Ward dented Sergei Bobrovsky for the first time while shorthanded. Eric Fehr scored Washington’s second of the night early in the third to give the visitors a prayer, but a slam-dunk finish from the side of the net by Cam Atkinson soon after sniffed that out right quick. With the loss, the Capitals fall to 24-22-8, and are still out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Braden Holtby started his third consecutive game Thursday night following two consecutive wins, and was not very good. Sure, the defense was awful in front of him and he made some nice saves, as it so often is, but Holtby needs to be better. He’s made a career so far with Washington out of being one of the sole reasons the Caps are ever even in games, so it’s hard to come down too hard on him, but at the same time his play needs to improve rapidly. It seems unlikely that this is the new norm for Braden because of how extended his tenure of good play was at the start of his career, but it becomes a bigger concern with every passing week that he goes without a signature performance. Michal Neuvirth is the overwhelming favorite to play Friday night in Detroit.
Mike Green left the game late in the first period after taking hard hit in the corner and making contact with the boards head-first. He tried to come back by giving it a go before the second period, but returned to the locker room and did not return to the game. We can probably expect the generic “day-to-day, upper body injury” company line from the Caps, but it’s fair to speculate that Green may miss Friday’s game in the Motor City because of his concussion history. Playing Detroit in the second half of a back to back potentially without one of your three best defensemen? Lordy.
Man, does this team miss Mikhail Grabovski. With the Caps’ little East German wonder out of the lineup, everyone is forced to play up, which means that Jay Beagle has to center the third line and an AHLer, Casey Wellman, has to center the fourth. That’s a pretty bad domino effect when he’s out of the lineup, and it shows just how important he is to this team’s (limited) success so far this season. If Washington wants to have any prayer at all of making the playoffs, he needs to get back in the lineup.
Tom Wilson had himself an interesting night. Outside of his assist (and pretty solid play), the Capitals’ young enforcer was making friends early in the game, absolutely leveling Nikita Nikitin with a late-ish hit. He had to answer for it later in the first with a fight and was at the center of physical activity whenever it flared up. Late in the second period he had just under 3:30 of ice time – less than a week after Barry Svurluga of the Washington Post reported that Adam Oates wanted to get the youngster more ice time (or at least that’s what he told he his dad). It’s beyond sad at this point what is going on with Wilson. He’s a young, very talented player who is on the big club for no other reason than to be a physical presence and fight, which is nonsensical. Just another question mark in a long line of them this season.
This was a not-so-pleasant return to earth for the Capitals following their two-game winning streak, and it stinks that it had to happen against a Metro opponent that is so hot on their heels. There was a point in this game, right after Columbus had scored to make it 4-0, the home team had 18 shots while Washington had 18 shot attempts. With their injuries and general lack of depth, this is not a good team right now and frankly, they never were that good. The Blue Jackets came out and dominated them Thursday and it didn’t even look that difficult. People think that it’s because the Caps didn’t “try hard enough,” or they didn’t “execute,” but the simple reality is that even when they try hard, they have severe limitations. Making the playoffs will be a battle, and time is starting to become a factor.