Capitals’ head coach Barry Trotz often talks about the battle the Caps are in and the need to manage the puck. When the team struggled during their Western Conference road trip, he spoke about fighting through adversity. It seems this week the Caps are back in that spot with two tough losses in four games played since Sunday, March 20.
The slide started with a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was the team’s first of three away games. Although Washington looked strong when they took to the ice at Consol Energy, the Pens zapped their energy and quickly took control of the game. Pittsburgh outshot the Caps 31 to 18. It was also a night in which the Caps spent a good bit of the game fighting back Pens power plays. Coach would later say, “There’s no excuse for sloppy play.”
The Caps managed to clinch their spot as the number one team going into the Stanley Cup playoffs as well as the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference as the top scoring team in both. Coach Trotz shifted Justin Williams up to the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the hopes that it might spark back some of the energy left in Pittsburgh. The Caps scored quickly in the first period with a great goal by Mike Richards. The remainder of the game was pretty smooth skating; however, Ottawa outshot Washington 30 to 22. There were fewer penalties this game, but the tripping by Dmitry Orlov stood out with fans who continue to question Orlov’s inconsistency. On a high note-it was Holtby’s 44th win of the season bringing him a little closer to Martin Brodeur’s record of most wins (48) in a season. Caps win 4 -2.
The Caps were back to fighting for an edge in Newark on Friday night. The game was probably one of the slowest games we have seen in a long time. Scott Wedgewood was in for Corey Schneider and boy was he ever a wall. John Carlson returned to the defense lines and TJ Oshie stayed home sick so Stan Galiev was given the chance to play. It took until the last five minutes of the third period before we really saw any enthusiasm on the ice and even that wasn’t enough to score. It would take until overtime and a slap shot (assisted by Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera) by the much improved John Carlson to give the Caps the win and two points. Caps barely outshot the Devils 26-22.
Blues – Yes the Caps were Blue for Sure
This one is hard to write about. The Caps came home Saturday to play the then number one team in the Central Division. Philipp Grubauer was in the net, giving Holtby a bit of a rest. Oshie was still out sick and his absence was felt. The Caps made it through the first period but the second was disastrous. Orlov got the blame again for keeping the puck out of the zone and by the end of the period St. Louis was up 3-0. The third period only got worse. Jake Alan was solid and blocked 32 shots from the Caps. Caps outshot the Blues 32 to 29 but lost the battle 4-0.
Having Carlson back is a good thing and helped to turn things around in his hometown of Newark. The Caps have been pretty confident winning against Eastern Conference teams but even those games have been a bit shaky of late. And there is a growing concern about them playing against Western Conference teams –one that they will have to face if they make it all the way to the finals. Check our look ahead to see how we think this week is likely to unfold.