In the wake of Wednesday night's kick-in-the-yambag loss to the Isles, Brooks Laich noted that this Caps team is lacking a killer instinct - they're not putting teams away when given the opportunity to do so.
Laich is right, of course, but the result on most nights (Wednesday being an obvious exception) hasn't been disastrous - one goal wins are worth two points just as four goal wins are - and the Caps are still 18-7-2 when scoring first, 13-3-2 when leading after one period and 18-0-2 when leading after two.
Killer instinct comes with experience - that whole "learning how to win" thing, and while it would be nice as a fan (and nicer still as a player or coach) to be able to relax for the last ten minutes of a third period, the ability to close out opponents more convincingly will come.
More troubling, at present, is the Caps' inability to win - or show up for - big games.
Four times this month, the Caps have played an intradivisional game in which they were within three points of first place in the Southeast Division and their opponent was within two points of them in the standings. The results? A 2-0 loss to Atlanta, a 2-1 loss to Carolina, a 3-2 loss to Atlanta and a 4-2 loss to Florida.
The "good" news is that tonight's opponent, Carolina, is four points ahead of the Caps (with three more games played), so perhaps the boys from D.C. can play a little looser. After all, the "Choking Dogs" label is one part of Caps tradition that this team would no doubt rather do without.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
ESPN might want to rename its "Friday Face Off" segment "Long-Winded Answers to Stupid Questions."... Maxime Ouellet update: acquired yesterday by ECHL Trenton, he gave up seven goals on 28 shots against in his ECHL debut. See ya never, Max!... Finally, one year ago today we looked at the Caps' record with and without a certain rugged blueliner (and enjoyed some musings from the Big Apple), looked at the sellers market for mediocre wingers, tried to figure out why a couple of Caps weren't playing and proposed a trade (that would have been suh-weet), and two years ago today we read some gloom and doom and had a chuckle about the state of Team USA hockey.
- Hart: Miikka Kiprusoff (38-save shutout win)
- Ross: Jere Lehtinen, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow (2 points each)
- Norris: Derek Morris (Game-tying goal at 19:57 of the third period, 2 SOG, 3 BkS)
- Vezina: Miikka Kiprusoff (38-save shutout win)
- Richard: Jere Lehtinen (2G)
- Calder: Peter Mueller (A on the Morris goal)
- Aiken: Mathieu Garon (L, 3 goals allowed on 28 shots against in 39:58 of work)