As reported several times in these articles, prior to the start of the regular season, “The Hockey News” picked the Washington Capitals as the winners of this year’s Stanley Cup. After watching the debacle last evening in Raleigh, it’s clear the current level of play would be unlikely to win the AHL’s Calder Cup. In what Washington’s owner called an “unacceptable performance” and “the worst game of the season”, the Capitals were shutout by Carolina Hurricanes 5-0.
This correspondent had great hopes that the Caps were going to bounce back from a tough loss against the Lightning on Saturday and go to town on the Canes. After all, the player viewed by most as the best player on Carolina’s team, goalie Cam Ward, was out with an injury and his backup, Justin Peters, would start. Going into last night’s game, Peters had a record of 1-3 and a GAA of almost 3.5 — seemingly a great opportunity for the Caps’ offense to put pucks in the net. Couple that with the fact that Carolina was in the bottom position of the Eastern Conference with only 22 wins vs. 26 losses and a defense that gives up the second most shots on goal in the NHL, it looked like a chance for Washington to pick up two points.
Those hopes began to wane less than four minutes into the first period when the Hurricanes scored. Less than two minutes later, they scored again — their second goal with just seven shots — chasing Tomas Vokoun from the ice to be replaced by Michal Neuvirth. He didn’t have a great night either, giving up three additional goals on 33 shots. The straw that broke the camel’s back for this correspondent was when Carolina was called for their first penalty a little more than five minutes into the second period. Hope sprung eternal for this diehard Caps fan until 45 seconds later, when the Hurricanes’ Eric Staal stole the puck and scored a shorthanded goal to make it 4-0 Carolina.
To say that Capitals played poorly is the understatement of all time. The Canes won the battle of shots (40-17), hits (24-16), takeaways (20-4 … that’s right, 20-4), and faceoffs (39-30).
What the statistics don’t tell you is that Washington played with zero heart. They were going through the motions, and it showed to everyone who watched the game. Their performance was an embarrassment to all Washington’s fans, and had it happened on home ice, an even greater volume of boos would have replaced the raucous yells of “Let’s Go Caps”.
If the Capitals can’t get up to play as a team against a Southeast Division opponent, there is no hope for them. There is a lack of leadership — one the ice, behind the bench, and in the front office. The Capitals management fired Bruce Boudreau for his inability to get the players to respond. The question that faces them now is “Who’s next?”
It’s also more than a little ironic that as we watch the team implode, the Capitals’ owner, Mr. Ted Leonsis, sent an e-mail to all season ticket holders less than a week ago informing them that next year’s season ticket prices would be going up — an average increase of 8%. Wow — pretty poor timing, I’d say.
Let’s Go Caps!