Capitals

Why this year is different than 2018, Ovechkin's big game and the Caps are in trouble

Capitals

The Capitals find themselves in a 2-0 series hole after an ugly 5-2 loss in Game 2 against the New York Islanders on Friday.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

This is different than 2018

You are going to hear a lot of talk about 2018 until Sunday's game. With the Caps down 2-0 in the series, the comparisons are inevitable.

In 2018, Washington lost its first two games of the first round series to the Columbus Blue Jackets and rallied back to win it 4-2.

The problem is that in 2018, the Caps were the better team in both games. They had confidence they could win because they should have won both of those games, plus they got a confidence boost from starting Braden Holtby in Game 3. Philipp Grubauer had started Games 1 and 2. In 2020, they just look bad. Both losses were bad losses and, unless Nicklas Backstrom is ready to go for Sunday, they don't have anyone waiting in the wings that they can plug into the lineup to provide the same kind of spark.

Don't be fooled by the 2018 comparisons. This team is not going anywhere unless it dramatically improves its play from the first two games.

Coming unglued

If you wanted to encapsulate this game in a single moment, it was in the second period when Garnet Hathaway was called for boarding just 21 seconds after Washington gave up a breakaway, go-ahead goal to Brock Nelson in the second period. Hathaway was hauled off to the box by the linesman with his gloves off looking for someone to fight. It was one of five power plays Washington gave up on the night.  Jakub Vrana continued his rough postseason with an early slash and Tom Wilson hit Ryan Pulock before giving him an unnecessary elbow, which sent him to the box. The team also took two too many men penalties. In addition, New York's second goal came off a defensive zone turnover as Lars Eller was attacked by two forecheckers behind the net and no one reacted to give him a target to pass to. The game-winner was scored on a breakaway as Vrana tried to corral the puck at the offensive blue line with his back turned to the pressure. Brock Nelson stole it away to launch himself on the breakaway.

 

The Islanders deserve credit for the way they have played, but all of these are self-inflicted mistakes by the Caps who look like they have completely lost their composure.

RELATED: CAPITALS WERE THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY IN 'SELF-INFLICTED' 5-2 LOSS

They have to change something

After how badly the team has played in the first two games, you cannot come back with the same lineup for Game 3. Something has to change beyond just Backstrom returning - if he does in fact return. Whether this means changing lines, defensive pairs or putting in the black aces, the Caps cannot take a wait-and-see approach as they already trail 2-0.

Turning point

Alex Ovechkin had just scored his second of the game to tie it at 2. With the Caps in the offensive zone, Vrana grabbed the puck at the blue line and, with his back towards the goal, tried to swing around and pass the puck off. But with his back turned, Vrana did not see Brock Nelson coming. Nelson stole the puck away and was off to the races, scoring the breakaway goal just 15 seconds after Ovechkin tied the game.

That goal proved to be the game-winner. It was horrible puck management from Vrana who did not play again in the second period.

Play of the game

Ovechkin deflected in a shot from Brenden Dillon to tie the game at 2 in the second period, Ovechkin's second goal of the game.

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Stat of the game

Another milestone for Ovechkin who deserved one as he tried to single-handedly carry the team on his back.

Quote of the game

Despite how bad this game looked, Ovechkin very nearly tied it at 3 in the third period with an open net opportunity on a power play. He won't miss many of those, but this time he hit the side of the net. When asked about the miss after the game, he was blunt.


Fan predictions

Score was off, but you were right about Ovechkin and the Caps still losing.

Close. Let's hope you're right about the second part.

Three people sent me this exact same GIF so kudos to you, Ryan, for getting there first. And, unfortunately, you were right....

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