[like many times, I wrote this yesterday, but am not getting aroound to posting it until today.]
I watched last night's Caps-Sens game a little bit late; I watched a bit of the first only a little bit late, but wasn't able to watch the rest until after the kids were in bed.
Holtby was in net, getting his first start in quite a while. The skating lineup got a little bit of shuffle; OV was a game-time decision and didn't play (lower body injury). That led to Volpatti playing again, and Brouwer being on the top line (and Fehr taking OV's spot on the power play again). And Erskine was scratched, leading to Schmidt being called up and playing.
I was really happy about the second part of that, although I can't say as it went terribly well. Schmidt and Carrick did not exactly cover themselves in glory in the game, although I think I'd stick with it (but I'd feel even better with Schmidt and Oleksy).
Overall, this game was played pretty close to even, possessionally. I thought the Caps did better, most of the time, but there were some really bad odd-man breaks (including a nightmarish 5-on-2, thankfully snuffed by an offsides call that was borderline interference) that made Holtby work much harder than he should have.
One of those odd-man breaks was a breakaway where Bobby Ryan looked like he'd beat Holtby, but Holtby's leg pad slightly deflected the puck as it was pulled across the net, causing the puck to hit the heel of Ryan's stick, and him to miss the net entirely.
Another of those breaks was the result of a bad pinch by Alzner (and that's certainly not something we can say with any regularity), leaving Carrick to defend. In real time, I thought Carrick was doing a decent job (would have liked to see him focus a little more on the pass), but ended up screening Holtby for a shot that went, five-hole, into the cage. And Holtby looked very surprised by where it went.
The Caps penalty kill did a very good job defending three of the four power plays they faced (one shot on goal between the three), but only managed one clear on the third one. Lots of zone time resulted in a tired defense (over a minute, I think), and a goal from Spezza. It also didn't help that Dima was the man in the box, that time. The PK also managed three shot attempts of their own in that time. I was actually pretty happy with the overall performance, despite the goal.
The power play was merely so-so, with ten attempted shots in four attempts (five shots on net). OV being out, of course, was a major factor here, so perhaps I'm being a little harsh.
Regardless of whether that's so or not, what's not is that they were unable to put a single puck past Anderson, so those two goals mentioned were more than enough to decide the game.
On the plus side, possession was pretty even (dead even, per 5v5 FF%, in fact), so things aren't looking too bad, in one sense.
Unfortunately, it makes six losses in a row, which has moved the Caps out of playoff contention, and things are not looking good, going forward. That's because their remaining schedule has a lot of road games, and against a lot of good teams. And they'll need about 40 pts in the 32 remaining games. So they'll definitely need to earn a playoff spot, if they want it.
And it starts tomorrow night, against the Devils, in New Jersey. They'll need to do a lot better than they've been doing. Let's hope they manage it. Go Caps!