The Capitals just didn't have it on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated in a 2-0 win in the latest EA Sports NHL 20 simulation.
The only change from Friday's game is Braden Holtby back in as the starter.
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Ilya Kovalchuk
Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Jonas Siegenthaler - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Brenden Dillon
Michal Kempny - Nick Jensen
Braden Holtby starts
Pittsburgh's lineup comes from Rob Rossi of The Athletic.
Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
Patrick Marleau - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Dominik Simon - Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Sam Lafferty - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - John Marino
Jack Johnson - Justin Schultz
Matt Murray starts
Result: Penguins 2, Caps 0
0-1 Penguins goal: Brian Dumoulin from Kris Letang and Jason Zucker
0-2 Penguins goal (power play): Kris Letang from Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby
How the Caps lost
1. No possession
It's hard to score when you can't get the puck. The Penguins ran a clinic in puck possession in this one as Washington barely had the puck on its stick at all. Every shift turned into a long offensive-zone shift for Pittsburgh, every counter from the Caps was, at best, one shot and then out of the zone. Most of the time, however, the puck was stolen away before Washington could generate any offense at all, either off an errant pass or just a steal. The final shot total of 35-15 reflects just how one-sided this game ultimately was.
Can I interest you in 16.7 faceoff percentage? No, of course not because it's garbage. When maintaining possession of the puck is already a struggle you can't afford to lose that many faceoffs. It only exacerbates the problem.
3. Every poke check is a penalty
Apparently the refs in this one have never seen a poke check or knew what it is because every one of them was a penalty. Since starting NHL 20, this became evident early on so I try not to use it much anymore despite the fact that it a poke check is a legitimate defensive move in hockey. I tried only a handful of times and, what do you know? Three tripping penalties against the Caps. Kris Letang would score on the third power play opportunity. He received the puck in the high slot and took advantage of a screen from, guess who, Hornqvist. Holtby went down in anticipation of the shot and Letang showed enough patience to skate around the screen and backhand the puck into the opening Holtby had left by going down.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh got zero penalties because the refs are totally on the Penguins' side and are always biased against the Caps!
OK, not in real life and people need to get over that. But in this game it sure felt like it.
Holtby was awesome
The only reason this game was not a complete and utter blowout -- because it should have been -- was Holtby. He kept the team in it for the whole 60 minutes. And believe me, this wasn't a game where it was even for one or two periods or the Caps played well in the first and Pittsburgh took over after that. No, Washington was on its heels all game long and Holtby did his best to keep it close.
Check out this acrobatic save Holtby made to get over just in time to deny Sheary on the one-timer.
Boy would there have been headlines after this one.
Crosby left the game in the third period with an apparent leg injury (or what is more commonly referred to as a "lower-body injury" in hockey) after taking a hit from Michal Kempny.
The hit was completely clean. Here's a look.
Crosby has the puck and Kempny goes in for a shoulder check through the body. Textbook. Even so, you know the conspiracy theorists would have been out saying Washington intentionally tried to hurt Crosby after he failed to get up.
It would have been the 2017 playoffs all over again.
The Caps were scheduled to play the St. Louis Blues at home on Tuesday. The simulation for the game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington at 7 p.m.
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