An injury-depleted Capitals team fell 2-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday, suffering their third straight defeat and fourth in their last five games.
Here are some observations from the loss.
The rookies deliver
Coming into Saturday's game, Washington had 32 goals. The top line had accounted for half of those with 16 combined goals. Already in need of secondary scoring, the Caps played Saturday without Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha. That meant the team's rookies were going to see their roles increase. With more playing time, they delivered on Saturday with Washington's lone goal of the game.
The play was set up by the great stick work of Connor McMichael who took the puck into the offensive zone, streaked behind the net, then did his best Evgeny Kuznetsov impression by dropping the puck off onto the doorstep of the net where Brett Leason was able to chip it in.
Leason now has three points in four games after getting called up from Hershey.
The neutral zone
This game was lost in the neutral zone. The Flyers were very good in cutting off the Caps in the neutral zone and forcing turnovers. Philadelphia did a much better job of getting the puck through the middle and down to Washington's end of the ice. The Caps were cut off in the neutral zone again and again, shutting down their offense before it could even get started.
Ovechkin's great backcheck and the power play's poor break-in
One of the highlights of the game for the Caps was Alex Ovechkin's great backcheck to break up a shorthanded breakaway for Cam Atkinson in the first period. Ovechkin chased him down and was able to make the key defensive play without committing a penalty, thus maintaining the team's power play.
It was a great play, but it was created by the team's continued struggle to break the puck into the offensive zone on the power play. The Caps employ the drop pass, which allows a player to take the puck at full speed and attack the defense, making it difficult for penalty killers to adjust. The key to this type of break-in is speed and the Caps run it just way too slow. The Atkinson breakaway came as a result of the penalty kill easily shifting against the slow break-in, trapping the puck carrier between the boards and the blue line and forcing a bad cross-ice pass that was easily intercepted.
Washington finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play and, once again, the break-ins were the main issue.
Too much time?
Ovechkin finished the game with 21:23 of ice time, the second-highest on the team. If Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha remain out for an extended period of time, the strategy can't just be for Ovechkin to play over 20 minutes a night. He may not look like it, but he is 36 years old. At some point he is going to run out of gas and you don't want that to happen in the spring while the team is in the playoff hunt or in a postseason series.
You don't see that every day
Derrick Brassard took a penalty in the second period when he threw a punch at Garnet Hathaway. OK, these things happen in hockey. So what? The issue is that Brassard wasn't in play. He was actually on the bench while Hathaway was on the ice.
Yeah, you can't do that.
Brassard was issued a bench interference penalty on the play.