For the third game in a row, the Capitals had a strong push in the first period. And for the third game in a row, they were unable to sustain that momentum for much longer than that as they dropped what was arguably their worst defeat of the season, getting crushed 4-1 against Montreal on Thursday night. The loss snaps a six game win streak against Montreal and dropped the Caps to 0-3 to start the season, the worst start since the 1993-1994 season when they lost six straight. In a night that felt as though things were finally starting to swing in the Capitals’ favor, ended in anything but. As they had in their first two games, the Capitals looked solid early on in the first period. In fact, if not for potential Vezina Trophy candidate Carey Price, this game had the looks of a very favorable outcome for the Capitals’ early on. There were signs that some of Adam Oates’ new system had begun to stick, especially with players like Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks, both of whom have had very strong outings through the first three games.
Unfortunately, as well and consistent as Beagle and Hendricks have played through the early days of this young season, the opposite can be said for the two most talented players on this Capitals roster, as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom proved to be complete duds in the third outing of the year. The two seem to have no feel or chemistry for one another and, compounded with a third different line mate in as many nights, as well as a new position on the right wing for Ovechkin, have struggled to find each other. Ovechkin looks completely lost on the ice, often times drifting from his right wing position over to the left hand side. On one occasion, he was caught doing this and collided with line mate Wojtek Wolski. The power play was stagnant as players preferred to stand still and pass the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone instead of moving to open spots on the ice. The penalty kill continued to struggle as well as Montreal was able to cash in on two power play goals, none of which made life easier for Michal Neuvirth, who was making his season debut and finished with 18 saves. Three games into the season, it appears that it may not be the new system, but work ethic and energy that is preventing this Capitals team from finally getting into the win column. It is hard to believe that a team that lead the NHL in goals a couple years ago, now finds that the most exciting moment in a game is when Matt Hendricks is barely staying alive in his third fight in two games.
The last thing that a team that lacks energy needs is another game the next night. That is exactly what is in store for Washington as they will travel to New Jersey tomorrow night to take on an undefeated Devils team that has only allowed one goal. Perhaps it might be just what the doctor ordered for the Caps, as they can put this game behind them and get back to work. That is, of course, assuming they bring their work ethic and a Red Bull with them.