WASHINGTON -- The Colorado Avalanche scored on its first three shots of the game and Capitals could never recover in a 6-3 loss Monday. Braden Holtby surrendered the first three goals before being relieved by Ilya Samsonov. The Caps mounted a comeback to make it 4-2, but a back-breaking goal in the third period was the final nail in the coffin of an ugly loss.
Observations from the loss
Let’s talk about the goalies
I know this is pretty much all you guys want to talk about, so let’s talk.
Holtby was bad in this game. No one is going to dispute that. But Colorado is also really, really good and the defense did not help Holtby all that much. All three of those things can be true. Fans sometimes can get one-track minds and I bet there are more than a few people who are going to put this game entirely on Holtby and forget about the other two points.
It’s not Holtby’s fault John Carlson turned the puck over and the completely misplayed the resulting rush defensively leading to the second goal. It’s also not Holtby’s fault that Tyler Lewington was too slow to react to the break-in and was beaten easily by Nazem Kadri.
I am not saying Holtby doesn’t deserve any of the blame for Monday’s loss, I’m just saying let’s not go nuts.
This game doesn’t mean that Holtby is washed up, it doesn’t mean the team should try to trade him immediately, it doesn’t mean that Ilya Samsonov is suddenly the No. 1 goalie going forward. All it means is that Samsonov has earned more playing time. That’s it.
Whatever the plan was for Samsonov, he has played well enough and Holtby has struggled enough that you should consider getting Samsonov more games. I would start him on Wednesday against Toronto and go back to Holby on Friday against the New York Rangers.
For now, however, Holty is still the No. 1. That doesn’t mean that can’t change, but we have seen this play out before with the same goalie Holtby played against on Monday. Philipp Grubauer passed Holtby in 2018 and then the playoffs came around and Holtby was back to being Holtby and retook the crease. I am not going to kick him to the curb because of a bad October.
Click here to read more on this from Brian McNally.
The Caps’ identity is physical hockey
A 4-0 game could have gotten very ugly very fast. The Caps came out in the second period and committed to a physical game and it completely changed the momentum. A game that looked like it was going to be an ugly, horrendous, “burn the tape” type of game turned competitive. Suddenly it was 4-2 heading into the third period.
The second period reminded me of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final between the Caps and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were the better team, highly skilled and should have won that series. They didn’t because the Caps beat the stuffing out of them. That’s why the Washington-Tampa Bay games last year were so physical because the Lightning wanted to show the Caps they weren’t going to be pushed around.
The one downside to being a physical team like that is that it takes a toll. You can’t play that way for 82-games and that’s why, in my opinion, you see these types of teams come out of nowhere in the postseason. A middle-of-the-pack team suddenly commits to the physical game every night and knocks around a stunned Toronto or Tampa Bay.
Obviously the turning point was allowing three goals on three shots, so I’ll go with something different and pick Samsonov’s third-period gaffe.
The Caps had taken control of the momentum heading into the third and it looked like they could make a game of it until Samsonov made a huge mistake behind the net.
Samsonov went behind the net to retrieve a puck on a Colorado dump-in. Tyson Jost came to pressure him and Samsonov tried to fire the puck along the boards past him. Jost got his stick in front of the puck and then had a helpless Samsonov stuck behind the net. Jost threw the puck in front of the net and a diving Matt Nieto hit it in.
The Caps still tried to come back, but that was the moment you knew they were going to come up short.
Play of the night
In a win or go home Game 6 against Tampa Bay in the 2018 ECF, Ovechkin was the best player on the ice. His stats in that game? No goals and no assists. It didn’t matter. He was a physical force and helped the Caps win that game by sheer force of will.
Ovechkin tried to do the same thing on Monday with hits like this one on Samuel Girard.
Stat of the night
With this loss, the Caps have now lost their first three home games for the first time since the 1983-84 season.
Washington has managed some pretty big wins on the road, but those are being wasted by the fact that this team can’t get a win at home.
Quote of the night
Todd Reirden on Samsonov’s play:
“He's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and that's to make it like a decision every night of who's going to be considered to play that game.”
That’s about as close as you’re going to get to Reirden saying he is considering playing Samsonov more.
Now this is bold. I like it.
But it was also wrong. Burakovsky got an assist, but Jakub Vrana can’t seem to get out of Todd Reirden’s dog house right now.
Gudas and Kadri were exchanging words behind the play when Oshie scored. I’ll give it to you.
I’m pretty sure Stephen Strasburg started.
Almost. They would have had a shot if not for the Samsonov mistake or the coach’s challenge on Carlson’s goal.
The Caps did not win and saying Holtby looks disinterested just isn’t fair. He has always been a calm, calculated goalie. He even said after “The Save” that it wasn’t a technically sound play. This is just the way he plays and has always played, from Vezina Holtby to 2019 Holtby.
Having said that, he was pulled so you were technically correct. Don’t get weird about it though.
Oh, you got weird.
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