Beninati: Caps Lose 3 Straight

Beninati: Caps Lose 3 Straight

Saturday, January 2, 2010

By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-By-Play

If you only watched the last two periods today you would have been the convinced were going to squeak out with a win from Los Angeles. I thought the first period was a lack luster performance, for that reason the team found itself in a 1-0 hole after 20 minutes.

The first period was especially physical and in particular it was for Mike Green. He delivered a few crunching hits in that open frame and was a target for some others.

The Kings power play goal was another in a long list of examples for why Ryan Smith is so good in front of the goal. He wades into those high traffic areas without any fear, he gets good body position then he is an expert at finishing rebounds or deflections.

After Mike Green blasted a power play goal past Jonathan Quick in the second I was ready for Washington to take over. The Kings barely breathed on Michael Neuvirth in the second period as the youngster was called on for just three saves.

The Caps played all but one minute of the second period and all of the third without Nick Backstrom. After the game we learned Nick was bothered by a migraine headache. He gets those from time to time and has told me in the past, when they come he can barely see. He has a particular medication which tends to alleviate the severity of the headache, so let's hope he's okay for Tuesday. When he's missing for any amount of time, you realize how valuable a play-maker he is and how important to the Caps power play.

Sadly, this game turned in favor of the Kings. As a result of a short-handed goal. From my perch, it looked like the guys got a little too causal clearing their defensive zones and after Alex Ovechkin threw a mild hit, the Kings kept playing while the Caps started watching. Seconds later, Michael Handzus showed nice patience deeking Neuvirth and roofing the game winner.

The Caps put on quiet a bit of pressure in the last five minutes only to be foiled by Quick. The Kings goalie made two exceptional stops against the Caps 5 on 3 power play and also lucked-out on a couple of, no pun intended, quick whistles.

Three straight losses will not sit well with this hockey team. They should be at their best when Montreal visits Tuesday. You can see it on CSN.

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.