At the end of the first period of last night's 4-1 Caps loss to Montreal - a period in which the Caps outshot their opponents 14-7 and dominated play save for two defensive breakdowns that turned into Canadien goals - I turned to my wife and said, "I hope you liked that effort because that's likely to be as good as it gets tonight." I was more or less spot on, as the undermanned Caps ran out of gas and were able to muster up only a very late 5-on-3 goal to break Cristobal Huet's shutout bid.
A few noteworthy points:
- The Caps were again dominated in the faceoff circle, losing 57% of the 53 draws and a whopping 78% in the offensive zone. Dainius Zubrus (who has to be in the top ten in the League in being thrown out of faceoffs) and Kris Beech - the Caps' top two centers - combined to go 2-for-10 on offensive zone faceoffs. It's hard enough to score on the Habs when you have to gain the offensive zone first; not being able to take advantage of the opportunity to start in the zone makes life even more difficult. Boyd Gordon, who had an otherwise strong game, was 6-for-17 on draws.
- Brooks Laich looked good. I don't have any stats to back that up, but he was noticeable in areas other than the penalty kill, which has been rare for him.
- On the flip side, Mike Green was bad. I don't know if he's hitting some kind of wall, but his last two games have been among his worst this season.
- The line changes, especially in the second period, were particularly sloppy. At least twice, a Cap forward carried the puck across the blueline and dropped a pass to a teammate who had gone to the bench for a change, leading to a Canadien rush the other way.
- Olie Kolzig couldn't be faulted for any of the Hab goals (except for the empty-netter, for which Olie was horribly out of position). Saku Koivu's tip-in nail-in-the-coffin was a thing of beauty.
- Montreal's defense corps is everything the Caps' isn't - experienced, decisive and skilled at the break-out pass.
- Yesterday I mentioned the Habs' special teams and they were the difference last night as the Habs were 25% effective on the power play and 87.5% effective on the kill.
- It was a surprisingly large crowd for a mid-week game (during the holidays, no less), announced at 15,609 but didn't seem packed with Montreal fans. Huh. Could it have been the 7:30 start time (a half-hour later than usual)?
- The Donald absolutely soaked Aaron Downey's melon with haymakers (see video below - h/t to Off Wing). Psst... Aaron... he's left-handed.