Winnipeg Walks With Two, Capitals Need a Breather

Posted March 23, 2012

Is it safe to come out, now? (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)

It probably breaks some kind of cardinal rule to compare tonight’s Caps game to the Hershey game on Wednesday night.  They’re different leagues, different opponents (one a division rival, the other merely a conference acquaintance), etc.  The Caps lost in OT, while the Bears won in regulation.

Or maybe it’s a comparison that makes a little too much sense for comfort.  Unfortunately, the Caps do not come out on the awesome side of this comparison.

Backup Chris Mason thoughtfully models the Jets' away uniforms.

Example #1 – Opponents (the obvious one).

Tonight, the Caps played the Winnipeg Jets.  On Wednesday, their AHL affiliated Hershey Bears played the Jets’ AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps.  In fact, the game-tying goal for the Jets tonight was scored by a recent call-up, Spencer Machacek (kudos where it’s due – it was his first NHL goal).

Example #2 – Scoring Flow

If you were lucky, you had some kind of a scheduling conflict which meant that you caught the first 26 minutes of tonight’s game, and you only found out about the loss via text message or twitter.  The Caps had a fantastic starting push, with a goal in the first period and another two by the 6 minute mark of the second.  Life was good, Alex Ovechkin was doing his thing (repeatedly, leading to speculation of an impending hat trick)

Up in Hershey, similar things happened, with three goals scored by the midway point in the second period.

Then the bottom fell out.  In Washington, it was with 27 minutes gone in the game.  In Hershey, it was with 32 minutes elapsed.  In both instances, once the visiting team scored there was no going back.

Example #3 – Personnel

In both games, the “regular” goaltender was given the start.  Michal Neuvirth backstopped the Caps, his first appearance in three games while sharing the load with call-up Braden Holtby.  He stopped 38 of 42 shots, with 19 of them coming after the second intermission.

Dany Sabourin played netminder in Hershey, his fourth straight start due to Holtby’s recall to the Capitals.  His back-up was a bit less comforting, seeing as Matt Tendler had been signed that morning to an ATO agreement as an emergency goalie.  Sabourin stopped 25 of 27 shots, with over half coming in the second period of the game.

Counter-Example #1 – Recent History

To provide the Caps a much needed bit of character defense, this was their second game in two nights.  Their first game home after a 5 game road trip.  They were, as former-Bears Brooks Laich and Karl Alzner both pointed out in post-game interviews, frankly exhausted.

Hershey had it a bit easier, spending two of their three weekend games at home.  They had Monday entirely off, and then Tuesday to recover and get their heads back into the game before facing St. John’s.

Counter-Example #2 – End Results

This is where the comparison really hurts, especially for those who are ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME.  Washington’s drop-off was early enough and steep enough that Winnipeg managed to rally and force overtime, eventually leading to a 4-3 win.

St. John’s, on the other hand, never managed to recoup more than two goals – they were unable to score in the third period at all, and while it may have been an ugly game in general, it was still a win for the Bears.

Something Else Worth Noting:

Brooks Laich got into a fight with Jim Slater tonight.  It was energetic, and well-intentioned, and came right after the first Winnipeg goal. Unfortunately, it did not have the desired effect of returning momentum to the Caps favor.

Brooks Laich v. Jim Slater.