Friday, January 25, 2013
Capitals still face harsh reality
By Katie Strang
NEWARK, N.J. -- There is this to be said about the Washington Capitals: They salvaged a bit of pride in earning their first point of the season, rallying to push the Devils to overtime before falling 3-2.
They showed the type of fight Friday that was conspicuously absent in their first three losses of the season.
And they got a tremendous effort out of goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who surrendered the winner in overtime on a sharp-angle shot by Ilya Kovalchuk but was otherwise impressive in his second start of a back-to-back.
Four games into the 2013 season, however, they have yet to earn their first win.
The Capitals have convenient explanations at their disposal -- a shortened training camp, the learning curve of adjusting to a different system under new coach Adam Oates, etc., etc. -- but that does little to help the team make up the critical ground already surrendered in the early throes of the schedule.
“I wouldn’t say there’s no panic,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Four losses in a row, that’s not good. Not good for a team that we all expect to be the opposite.
“On paper, we have a great team, but we haven’t been able to put it together.”
Indeed, the Capitals do have a formidable lineup -- one that should place them in the mix for a playoff spot and a potential Southeast Division title.
But having Alex Ovechkin at your disposal doesn’t translate to wins and the road only gets tougher when the superstar isn’t pulling his weight.
Oates juggled lines, putting together unlikely combinations that were previously unseen and altogether unexpected -- i.e. Ovechkin with grinders like Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb -- but the 27-year-old winger was held off the score sheet for the third time this season.
Even with the move back to left wing, Ovechkin was ineffective, managing only two shots on 24 shifts in 22:29 of ice time. He has registered only one assist in four games this season.
Quite simply, it's not enough if the Capitals want to turn things around.
“We know where we are in the standings and it’s tough,” Nicklas Backstrom said, “but we just got to keep working harder and go to the net and hopefully we’ll get those dirty goals and, I don’t know, win hockey games.”
The Capitals got a morale boost from Mike Green’s late-game equalizer, sure, but the lockout-shortened 48-game season doesn’t leave a lot of time for pats on the back and feel-good moments when two points aren't earned.
The hard reality is that the Caps still really need a win. And that still hasn’t happened.