It was another frustrating night for the Washington Capitals as they fell 2-0 to a jet-lagged New York Rangers outfit at the Verizon Center on Wednesday. The Capitals looked panicked and rushed for most of the game and failed to take advantage of numerous chances against a team in the middle of a nine-game road stretch to start their season.
During their three-game losing streak that led up to Wednesday’s game, the Rangers allowed 20 goals. However, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a knack for keeping the puck out against his old rivals. He has made 84 straight saves against the Capitals dating back to last spring’s playoff series. I don’t know if that’s some kind of record, but it should be.
To say that the Capitals were outplayed in this game would be incorrect. The Caps simply underplayed — in every aspect — except goaltending. Goalie Braden Holtby kept the score line respectable by making 34 saves. However, the forecheck was non-existent, the concentration was lacking and there was no on-ice chemistry.
But most frustrating of all, numerous players tried to be too “cute” by making a tricky pass when a shot on goal was more appropriate. That happened way too many times.
Washington was out-shot a ridiculous 21-6 in the second period. They managed eight shots in the first and third periods. Their much-lauded power play unit went 0-for-4, and a 5-on-3 situation in the opening stanza fizzled out after forward Joel Ward missed a gaping open net from two feet out.
“We had an empty net on the 5-on-3. We didn’t bury it,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates to the media after the game. “It’s a different ballgame if Wardo puts that in.” Maybe so, but I’m not convinced. And I certainly hope that Oates isn’t blaming the loss on that missed opportunity. There are so many other things to blame the loss on. For example, the Caps’ defense was dysfunctional as they spent way too much time chasing pucks and supplying errant passes.
These are worrying times for Oates. The Capitals now sit at 2-5-0, which is eerily similar to last season’s start. However, Oates doesn’t have the excuse of a lockout and limited preparation time this time around. He’s had plenty of time and has ample talent in his club to produce the goods. He needs to quickly reinvent his team and get some wins under his belt.
It’s time for Oates to change the lines, reevaluate the system or make some other bold moves. Losing three out of four home games does not sit well with the fans or Oates’ boss, GM George McPhee.