Well, I can't say as expectations of the Caps winning were all that high coming into the game tonight against San Jose. Even if we were to ignore how the teams are doing lately, there's also the matter of how lopsided their head-to-head record is. Punctuated, of course, by the score of their last encounter. And seeing Holtby in net for the Caps, given his record in the AHL this season, didn't exactly help matters, either.
But the Caps did manage to come out punching, giving up some chances, but getting a few of their own as well. In fact, the first period ended pretty even; the Caps were down a goal, but were up one in shots. They were looking pretty good, actually, despite the score. And they managed to keep it that close despite being 2-0 in penalties given up. As I said, not too bad; especially against the Sharks and playing for the second night in a row.
But things went a bit wobbly pretty quickly in the second. Pavelski got his second goal three and a half minutes in with a complete fluke from center ice (doesn't that sound familiar?). The Caps continued to play well, but surrendered another with four minutes left on a deflected shot that bounced off Holtby's arm, and over his body, and was pushed in by Marleau (both of those goals were on the power play). I was about ready to turn it off when that one went in, since it seemed things were not going the Caps' way, but am glad I didn't. Orlov managed to put a slapper past Greiss with less than a second left in the period (it was nice to be the one scoring one of those, for once, instead of giving it up).
I'm not sure how they decided it, and under what rule, but they decided not to drop puck for the ensuing face-off, and declared the period over (to be sure, there was only about 3/4 second left, which wouldn't be long enough to score, even off a slapshot off the draw, but I still don't understand how they can just declare the period over).
The Caps really came out roaring in the third, getting seven shots in the first two and a half minutes, but none of them found the back of the net. When San Jose scored again, two minutes later, I decided that I had had enough. It appears that I missed a Marleau power play goal (I thought we had a good PK, at home... Tonight? Not so much), and Hamr and Sarge adding goals to make it look more respectable.
Recker was called up for the game, in a move that completely baffles me. He played only a minute and a half, and somehow managed to get a misconduct penalty while on the bench. Not bright. Was that worth the bench spot? I'm pretty sure Aucoin or Knuble woiuld have provided more value. Enough to win the game? Of course not, but it's all about giving yourself the best chance to win, and I can't see how Recker is that.
I'm getting more and more disenchanted with Hunter as a coach. I don't know whether his system rots, or he's just completely failing to get the team to play it, but things are not really going right. Offensively, they're supposed to play for very good chances, I think. At least, that's the only way to explain the dearth of shots (tonight was much better in that respect, but again, much of the edge there was when they were down two or more goals). And if you're going to do that, you bloody well better have a high shooting percentage. But the percentage has dropped under Hunter (not a lot, but they didn't start out with a large margin).
Their "success" under Hunter has all been predicated on awesome goaltending. As pointed out earlier on Japer's (see JP's comments), the Caps have allowed a total of one goal (yes, combined) in all of their wins in the last thirteen games. That's definitely not a recipe for success. They must score more consistently.
I've pretty much given up on the team even making the playoffs this year (especially given the utter lack of good news on Backstrom). Trade Semin (maybe the Kings will be sufficiently desperate), trade Wideman (unless they can re-sign him for next year, which I don't think they can), trade TVo. Whatever. Stock up on picks and young studs.
Of course, that still leaves them with a coaching situation to be addressed, and I have no idea what to do, there. I don't think Hunter's the answer, but I can't say that I have any better ideas. French, from Hershey? No clue if that's a good idea or not.
In the shorter term, we've got another Florida trip coming up, with the Panthers on Friday and the Lightning on Saturday. If they can't pull out all four points, I'm all for blowing things up, at this point.
Update: After sleeping on it last night, I think I juxtaposed a few things in my mind last night. Or, at least, I was a bit harsher than deserved, because of being disappointed with the result. The effort was really good last night, and I shouldn't be as down about the cause of the shot differential, because it was still about even when the game was close. I'm still pretty pessimistic about the season as a whole, but shouldn't be so down on last night.