By Bill Sands
Prior to the Caps’ departure for California, we detailed several tasks that the team would need to accomplish in order to have a successful road trip. Top among that list was the need to play tight defense, keep games low-scoring, and put together a complete 60-minute effort. Tuesday night, Washington accomplished exactly none of these items in a 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Goaltender Braden Holtby had another bad night and was pulled after allowing three goals early on.
Things got off to a bad start, as a Tom Wilson penalty in the opening minute of the game set the stage for a Ducks power play. Adam Henrique capitalized just a minute later to put the visitors in an early hole. Hampus Lindholm scored late in the first to make it 2-0 at the end of the period. After only 20 minutes, the Caps had failed to play a complete game and they were not faring much better in keeping the puck out of their net.
Time For A New #1 Goalie?
The Caps responded well early in the second period and looked like they might be capable of coming back, but a Rickard Rakell goal made it 3-0 and Holtby was looking at three goals allowed on only nine shots. Rarely is it the goalie’s fault, but there’s no real way to justify a .667 save percentage. The Caps need better from their starting goaltender, especially when playing from behind, and Holtby has lately been unable to make the big saves in important moments. Philipp Grubauer played well in relief, and it may be time for head coach Barry Trotz to consider going with Grubauer as the #1 goalie – for the foreseeable future, at least. A quick look at the numbers shows that Grubauer is playing better than Holtby.
“He hasn’t had a real good stretch,” Trotz said after the game. “He’s going to work with our goaltending coaches and get his game in order. He’s won a lot of games for us. He’s an elite goaltender in this league. Everybody goes through some dry spells and he’s having one right now really.”
A lackluster third period provided no offense save for a late empty-net Nick Ritchie goal. The Caps ended the night with 36 shots, which is certainly not embarrassing, but that number hides the fact that the team had very few scoring chances (and, of course, zero goals).
2 More Games Out West to Make Amends
If there’s any consolation from this game, it’s the fact that the Caps have two more chances on this road trip to right the ship. The team has shown an ability to bounce back from bad losses and hopefully the effort is much better on Thursday night in Los Angeles when Washington takes on the Kings.