Am I supposed to be happy that the Caps "only" lost 5-3 (they probably covered the spread)? Should I feel good that they held a decent team under six goals? Is it encouraging that they scored three times without the help of the other team putting one in their own net? Well, I'm not, I don't and who cares?
There are a few positives to take away from last night's tilt with the Isles: the penalty kill was 7-for-7, Matt Bradley scored twice, Steve Eminger had his first career multiple-point game, Brendan Witt was +3 and Brent Johnson made 44 saves in his Caps debut. But a slow start again doomed the Caps - how can you expect to win a game when you're down a field goal less than eight-and-a-half minutes in?
The slow start was coupled with a slow finish as once again the Caps found themselves in a close game headed into the third period, only to crumble in the game's final stanza. So far this season, the Caps have been outscored 14-3 in the third period in six games. That's not supposed to happen to a young team. The third period should be the time when their young legs really take it to the opposition. Instead, they've allowed twice as many third period goals as any other team in the League and scored fewer than any other team that has played as many games. For whatever reason, the Caps have had trouble early and late in games and often early in periods. "It's concentrating for the full 60 minutes. We aren't doing that," said Eminger. I hate to say it because I like Glen Hanlon, but that's coaching, pure and simple. Do you think Scotty Bowman's teams ever lacked focus in the third period of games? Do you think Mike Keenan's teams have ever been quintupled up at crunch time?
Now I think Hanlon brings a lot to the table that a guy like Keenan does not (and I'm certainly not saying that Keenan would be a better coach for this team). But having your team prepared mentally is as much a coach's duty as having the team prepared physically is, and the numbers would seem to indicate that Hanlon's lacking in this facet of the game so far. The team can hold all the players-only meetings it wants to, but change has to come from behind the bench first and foremost. Crack the whip, Carrot - it's your job at stake.
The WaPo's coverage is here, the WTimes' is here. On to the positive...
- Hart: Mike Modano (3 primary assists, including a beauty on the game winner)
- Ross: Mike Modano, Steve Sullivan, Glen Murray, Oleg Kvasha, Kimmo Timonen (3 points each)
- Norris: Kimmo Timonen (G, 2A)
- Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist (W, 20 saves on 22 shots against)
- Richard: Steve Sullivan (2G)
- Calder: Henrik Lundqvist (W, 20 saves on 22 shots against)