(Photo credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
After being bitten by the San Jose Sharks Tuesday, the Washington Capitals’ Pacific Division swing continued Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. With heightened emotion flowing after yet another shutout loss, the Caps came out firing. Alex Ovechkin scored what Michael Cole would call a “vintage Ovechkin” goal just 1:06 into the game and things seemed to be right in Capitals Land. The Kings, however, invaded said land with a spurt of their own offensive firepower and sent Washington’s conquered onlookers home early, bringing a chorus of boos and jeers with them to the exits. The 4-1 loss, the Caps’ fifth in seven games, leaves plenty of cause for concern. And unlike the late Tupac Shakur, the Caps can’t find themselves any “California Love.”
- Mike Green returned Saturday after a one-game absence. There’s no way to sugarcoat this: he played a horrible game. He was a minus-3, committed the only minor penalty for the Caps, couldn’t keep the puck in the zone several times during power play opportunities and looked more like a traffic cone than a defenseman on three of Los Angeles’ four goals. While Green’s defensive play for the most part has gotten better, Saturday proved that he still has a long way to go. There’s a reason why he hasn’t won the Norris Trophy.
- Green, however, is not the only player to blame. In fact, it took a team effort to look so bad. Green’s defensive partner, Jeff Schultz, was also a minus-3, and like Green, found himself out of position and flat-footed when a play needed to be made. Semyon Varlamov cannot be blamed (despite giving up some big rebounds) for three of the Kings’ four goals; it’s the defenseman’s responsibility to push loose pucks out of harm’s way if necessary. Let us not forget Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera, who were a combined minus-6. While Green and Schultz were probably the worst players on the ice Saturday (it doesn’t help that they are possibly the team’s top defensive pairing), as said before, everyone was to blame for Saturday’s lackluster effort.
- Talking about the power play is a lot like beating a dead horse at this point. The Caps went 0-for-4 Saturday, marking the 12th time in their last 16 games that they’ve gone without a PP goal. Not only that, but the Caps have not scored more than one PP goal in the same game since November 26. Bruce Boudreau is even incredulous about the state of the power play. There’s really no explanation.
- If one player deserves some recognition, it’s D.J. King. He earned CSN’s “Player of the Game” award for his hard-nosed effort. He was only on the ice for 7:22, but he had one hell of a fight with Kevin Westgarth, had four hits and even got off a nice shot in transition. Yet, you know something is wrong when King is named as the player of the game for anything.
After the game, the locker room was closed for a lot longer than most media members are used to. It just so happened that there was a players-only meeting called. Something must be done. With the trade deadline just two weeks away, the time is now to make a move. Either that or the Capitals need to find their true identities on this upcoming road trip; five games against five teams either in the playoffs or just outside could make this road trip the most important stretch of the season. The Caps will face off against hungry teams; whether or not they grab their sacks remains to be seen. As Boudreau said after Saturday’s game, the Caps cannot expect to turn things on at the “flip of a switch.” In the mean time, “blowing things up” is not the answer, but the Capitals need an attitude adjustment. Maybe they should call John Cena.