Call it a case of (insert professional championship, such as the Stanley Cup) Hangover, but on a much smaller scale and without the championship. That’s basically what we saw with the Caps last night. Two days after the giant-killing in Ottawa, the Caps looked largely disjointed and, aside from a brilliant early power play that was criminally unscored-upon, unable to apply significant pressure through most of the night in falling 5-2 to Tampa Bay. That’s ok, looking at the big picture. Now with four days until their next game, the Caps can get their wounded stars healthy and prepare to make some real headway in the Eastern Conference standings (and given their last-place position in said conference as of this morning, there is nothing but headway to be had – but hey, we’re tied with Buffalo, and everyone always seems to think that Buffalo is on the verge of winning everything).
As always, there are positives to be gleaned, even from a loss. Mike Green again showed off his offensive stick-wielding prowess (the true likes of which we had not seen since early last season in Colorado) in driving deep into the offensive zone and feeding a pass into the crease, eventually deposited into the net courtesy of Ovie. Kolzig was completely sharp on a number of occasions, until the Caps shot-giveaway special attempted to again take over a game. The 14,617 Capitals faithful in attendance did not turn on their slightly underperforming team, instead saving their third-period ire for the referees and their non-calls on Matt Bradley short-handed breaks, non-calls on dislodged nets with pucks in them, non-calls on various trips and hooks, and the occasional offside-causing blockage of the puck (for the record, lest we be beset with “stop complaining about the refs, your team sucks”-type comments, it’s unlikely any of this really played into the ultimate result – it was just nice to have fans of a currently losing team find another demon to boo other than that team). Tomas Fleicshmann notched his fourth goal of the season, matching his career high, set last season. He’s rounding nicely into a solid second-line winger. Could there be a second-line-winger controversy when Alexander Semin is healthy? Of course not.
Speaking of Semin, these next four days off could be a good time for him to get healthy(-ier) and to come back to bring that wicked snap-shot of his to a lineup desperately seeking it. Captain Clark is reportedly coming back after the short break (we hope to reunited with Ovie on the top line), so the Caps could be returning to a semblance of what the team was really supposed to look like, and that team that thrilled and teased us all with the 3-0 start. With playoff positioning still only five points away, there is still time to make a run and make it happen, though it does have to start soon. The timing of Clark’s return and (we hope) Semin’s imminent return could not be better.
Coach Hanlon is, according to Tarik’s blog, a little angry over last night’s loss. That’s good. A little anger could be what the Caps need, as we’ve previously noted. Some coach-inspired anger spilling over onto the ice would be as useful as the aforementioned Semin snap-shot. Get furious, Caps, and make the run we know you can make.