Saturday night was a rough one for the Washington Capitals. They were without their captain and leading scorer due to injury, but that doesn’t explain how their game completely unraveled throughout the course of the evening against Vegas.
The Golden Knights laid down a 6-2 thumping on them, with nary a sign of resistance from the Capitals. Darcy Kuemper was handed a difficult task from the start and things went downhill from there as he got absolutely no help from his defense.
The killer straw that broke the camel’s back came when four goals had been allowed on 18 shots, prompting him to get pulled in favor of Charlie Lindgren. It’s results like this that are sure to leave team management scratching their heads in frustration.
This marks Washington’s fourth loss in their last six games. This is the same as the Knights, but they still lead in the Western Conference with a 29-16-2 record.
Ovechkin’s Absence Costs a Lot
This Tough loss to Vegas was a big deal for the Washington Capitals, who looked uninterested as their captain Alexander Ovechkin missed a game for the first time this season. Ovechkin had taken a “maintenance day” as reported by the team and did not appear at Saturday’s morning skate. Despite having won the Stanley Cup against Vegas in 2018, the Capitals have yet to record a regular season win at T-Mobile Arena, which likely contributed to T.J. Oshie’s verdict that they had been “not mentally sharp at all”.
“Tonight that was probably the worst we’ve played, I don’t know, I can’t remember [the last time] … how disinterested we looked like we were tonight,” Oshie said. “Bury it and away we go.”
After a disappointing 0 for 3 outing on the night, Washington’s power play had some soul-searching to do. With Alex Ovechkin out of the lineup, his usual spark was muted on both opportunities in the first period; after trailing by 2, the team couldn’t capitalize.
Erik Gustafsson was especially hard on himself in the aftermath and took responsibility for the power play’s lackluster performance.
“I got to move the puck quicker and got to shoot it more. I think that is one thing we have to do better on the power play.” he said. “Tonight we needed the power play to go our way but I need to do a better job on the blue line.”
For now, Ovechkin is listed as day-to-day on the injury report, and time will tell whether their mental sharpness will return with him back on the ice. While Washington certainly missed Ovechkin that night, having teammates take accountability like that is just as important when it comes to generating a game-changing effect.