From Losing Late to Losing EarlyPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Coming into tonight’s game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center, the Capitals are three points from eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. They’re also three points from 13th place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps have won exactly half (17-15-2) of their first 34 games this season. Washington has 48 games remaining, including tonight’s contest against the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers. Many of those games are against the top teams in the east; 21 of the Capitals’ remaining games come against teams currently in the top eight and 15 of those come against the top five in the conference. New York has won five straight, its third winning streak of five or more games this season. The Rangers have allowed just seven goals in their last five games and 16 goals in their last 10. Washington will be trying to halt a two-game skid; the Caps have dropped four of their last six overall. “It’s a good challenge,” says Caps center Jeff Halpern of tonight’s game against the Rangers. “I think anytime you’re playing a good team, it forces guys to be on their toes and to put their best foot forward. I think the league is so competitive now, it feels like every night is like that. But when someone’s at the top of the conference, you know you’re in for a good game and you get on your toes a little bit more.” It’s not late in the season, but it’s not early, either. We’re quickly approaching the halfway point of the season; it’s about two weeks away. What’s more unnerving than the calendar turning to January is the way in which Washington has lost some of those 17 games that have already gone in the loss column. Early in the season, the Caps were guilty of letting games slip away in the latter stages. Losses at Vancouver (Oct. 29), the Islanders (Nov. 5), against Dallas (Nov. 8), against New Jersey (Nov. 12, shootout), at Nashville (Nov. 15) and against Pittsburgh all came in games in which the Caps were even on the scoreboard heading into the third period. That’s six games – and 12 standings points – that were there for the taking with just one solid period of hockey. Washington collected one of those 12 points. Recently, the Caps have taken a different tack on their way to losses. In seven different games over a span of 38 days, the Capitals dug an early – and usually gaping – hole for themselves. In some instances, they stormed back to make the final score respectable. In only one of those seven games – worth a total of 14 standings points – was Washington able to steal a point. Here’s the list of those seven setbacks: Nov. 19 at Toronto: Down 5-1 in first 26 minutes, lost 7-1. Nov. 25 vs. Rangers: Even after one, down 3-0 early in 2nd, lost 6-3. Nov. 26 at Buffalo: Gave up two in 1st, down 3-1 early in 2nd, lost 5-1. Dec. 5 at Florida: Gave up three in 1st, down 5-1 in 2nd, lost 5-4. Dec. 13 vs. Philly: Gave up game’s first five goals, lost 5-1. Dec. 23 at NJ: Gave up game’s first three goals, lost 4-3 in shootout. Dec. 26 at Buffalo: Gave up four in first, lost 4-2. That’s 13 of the team’s 17 losses right there. In two others – Oct. 27 at Edmonton and Nov. 17 at Winnipeg – the Caps scored first but weren’t able to score again, losing 2-1 and 4-1, respectively. “There are a lot of things we’ve done wrong in some of those games,” says Halpern. “The most important thing to start the games is establishing your game plan or your identity. A lot of times that’s how you get in on the forecheck. We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot whether its bad turnovers or miscues on the forecheck or things like that where we’re not able to establish it at one end. “Teams like New Jersey, Buffalo and St. Louis came out right away, got pucks deep and got in on the forecheck. It puts a team back on their heels to start the game and it’s something we need to be able to do.” There is one bit of very good news for the Caps going into tonight’s game against New York. After being sidelined for two and a half months with concussion-like symptoms, Jay Beagle is back in the lineup for Washington tonight for the first time since Oct. 13. Beagle had played in two of Washington’s first three games this season before he was sidelined. This is the fourth season in which Beagle has appeared in NHL action; he has a total of three goals and five points along with 19 penalty minutes in 43 career contests.
Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov was a second-round pick (55th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Recalled from AHL Hershey in late November of his first full professional season in North America, Orlov has been solid throughout his 17-game stint in the NHL to date. Orlov made his NHL debut on Nov.