Here’s the question that Washington’s fans ask themselves as the referee prepares to drop the puck before every single game: Which Capitals team are we going to see tonight? Those not familiar with the Caps might wonder why that needs to be asked, but all one has to do is look at the last two games — the humiliating loss to Buffalo, a team behind the them in the standings followed two days later by a one-sided 4-1 victory over the Rangers, currently sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Let’s review the numbers:
Monday, December 26th at Buffalo:
- Michal Neuvirth gives up three goals on the first six shots by the Sabres — the first during a power play following a delay of game penalty by the Caps called nine seconds into the game.
- Tomas Vokoun gives up a fourth goal less than three minutes later.
- All told, Buffalo scores on four of their first eight shots
- The Sabres have ten takeaways vs. one for Washington
- Buffalo wins 60% of the faceoffs
Wednesday, December 28th at home vs. New York:
- Tomas Vokoun stops 31 of 32 shots including all 15 in the final period
- The Caps outhit the Rangers 22-15
- Washington successfully kills all five of the Ranger power plays
Actually, yesterday’s score doesn’t indicate the degree to which the Capitals outplayed the Rangers — were it not for some incredible saves by the Rangers Martin Biron, the score would have been even more lopsided. Less the reader think that Washington played a perfect game, however, they coughed up the puck 13 times, several times deep in their own zone.
So what’s the difference? From this correspondent’s perspective, it really boils down to how hard the Capitals work when they are on the ice. So far this year, there are way too many parallels to last year’s playoffs — when Washington thumped the Rangers in five games in the first round only to be swept in four straight by Tampa Bay in the second round. The difference then, as now, was how hard the Capitals work.
I think Brooks Laich said it pretty well (as reported in the Washington Post) when he said: “…It’s going to take work to get out of this. It’s going to take work and believing in your teammates and that’s the only way it’s going to happen.”
No one could have said it better. We’ll see if his teammates take it to heart.
Let’s Go Caps!