Less than two weeks ago, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis called the 5-0 loss to Carolina “ the worst game of the season”. At least Washington had a little bit of an excuse that night — the Caps were playing an away game on the Hurricanes home ice. Last night, Washington ended up on the short end of another 5-0 game at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, who had lost four straight, in front of a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.
To say that Washington played poorly was an understatement. From sloppy passes by defensemen to absolutely terrible goaltending (Michal Neuvirth gave up five goals on only twenty shots) to an inability to light the lamp against a backup goalie even once despite 23 shots on net, it was a night that Capitals fans want to forget.
Meanwhile, as pointed out in last week’s article, time is slipping through Washington’s hands. There are only 18 regular season games remaining, and the schedule only gets more challenging. Fifteen of the 18 are against Eastern Conference opponents, more than half of which are positioned above the Caps in playoff standings. Two of the three games against Western Conference opponents pit the Capitals in away contests against teams having at least five more wins during the season to date.
Meanwhile, as the lifeboat called “The Road to the Playoff” fills with water and slowly sinks; the franchise management seems unwilling to do anything dramatic. Perhaps their view is that they don’t need to — after all, the Capitals are only one point out of the eighth spot in the East. But there were no trades before the deadline, despite a number of players who have not only failed to adequately contribute, but have piled up big numbers on the wrong side of the plus/minus ledger. Perhaps their view is “Why should we worry?” After all, their ‘superstar’ is tied for third from the bottom of the Capitals roster with a plus/minus of -8? Or when only three of the NHL’s 46 goaltenders have a lower save percentage than the Capitals most recent starter between the pipes. Or perhaps the ultimate indicator was an interview comment by Washington’s head coach Dale Hunter that — at least in his view — losing 5-0 was just like losing 2-1 because after all, it was still only two points in the standings.
The booing that was heard in Verizon Center last evening was a rarity, at least when directed at the hometown Capitals. Mark my words, however, unless the Caps wake up and start playing at the level that they are being paid for, there will be many more. Washington’s inconsistency needs to be corrected now. If it’s not — and so far the evidence appears to be that it’s unlikely to be — the odds are that the Capitals will be able to start making tee times in April instead of having to wait until later in the spring.
Let’s Go Caps!