You can't win 'em all. The Capitals suffered their first simulated loss since the NHL season was paused, falling 4-0 to the Edmonton Oilers Monday in an EA Sports NHL 20 game.
The plan going in was to keep the same lines from Saturday's win over the Chicago Blackhawks, but T.J. Oshie's wife went into labor on Monday so I had to shuffle some things. I wasn't going to keep Oshie in, I'm not a monster.
Ilya Kovalchuk moved up to the second line, Richard Panik up to the third and I gave Travis Boyd the spot on the fourth. Why Boyd over Brendan Leipsic? Because I wanted more offense in the lineup against Edmonton and because Boyd has not played since Feb. 20. Leipsic's last game was Feb. 23.
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - Ilya Kovalchuk
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Travis Boyd - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Jonas Siegenthaler - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Brenden Dillon
Michal Kempny - Nick Jensen
The Oilers' lineup came from Edmonton writer for The Athletic, Jonathan Willis:
Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse - Ethan Bear
Kris Russell - Caleb Jones
And flip a coin for the goalie (I did and it was Mike Smith)
Result: Oilers 4, Caps 0
0-1 Oilers goal: Connor McDavid from Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson
0-2 Oilers goal: Zack Kassian from Connor McDavid and Oscar Klefbom
0-3 Oilers goal: Tyler Ennis from Kailer Yamamoto and Leon Draisaitl
0-4 Oilers goal: Connor McDavid from Josh Archibald
How the Caps lost
1. The second period
The game was very even through the first 20 minutes. It was not a situation in which Holtby was bailing the team out and the Caps were just barely holding on. When the second period began, however, that's when the Oilers' speed took over.
A board battle ensued in the Caps' defensive zone and Siegenthaler came in to support. McDavid passed the puck back to the blue line then immediately cut off the wall to the net. Siegenthaler was a step slow to react and with McDavid, a step behind turned into several feet behind when he got close to Holtby. Unfortunately for Washington, Holtby gave up a rebound off the shot by Klefbom and McDavid was all alone for the easy tap-in.
Edmonton began to pour on the offense and the Caps had no answer for their cycle. McDavid set up the Oilers' second goal as he took the puck behind the goal line and found Kassian open. Edmonton added a third goal and it could have been a fourth just in that period alone without Carlson hustling back on defense to break up a breakaway opportunity.
In addition to McDavid's rebound goal, Ennis also potted a rebound as he was the first to get to the puck off a shot from Yamamoto.
It's not that the defense played particularly poorly in this game, it didn't. Dillon, in particular, had another strong game on the right. But besides the fact that the Caps could not keep up with Edmonton's speed, they also could not beat them to loose pucks...practically ever. Edmonton collected every rebound and scored twice doing so.
Would having a physical player like Radko Gudas in the lineup have helped or was this just a case of a fast team using the jets to their advantage? That's something to think about when constructing the lineup for the next game.
3. Sustained offensive pressure
The first period was a very back and forth game with both sides trading good chances, but neither was able to sneak one past the netminder. The tide shifted in the second and third periods because the Oilers were able to get sustained offensive zone time and the Caps were not. Washington put together a number of good rush opportunities, but they were one and done with the puck quickly headed in the other direction. The defense did well against Edmonton's speedy rush opportunities, but the Oilers were able to use their speed to cycle the puck effectively to find openings in the defense, get to rebounds and stay one step ahead of the Caps.
Of the four goals, only one, McDavid's tally in the third period, came off the rush. The other three were long shifts in the offensive zone.
What could have been
This could have been a very different game as Boyd had a golden opportunity to score in the first period.
Dillon pounced on a loose puck near the defensive blue line, saw a lane, and decided to take it up ice on the rush. Boyd joined him for the 2-on-1. Dillon delivered the pass, but it was a fraction of a second too late and just a bit in front of Boyd. WIth almost no angle on the empty net, Boyd instead sent the puck through the crease, missing what should have been the first goal of the game.
It would have been a tough play to make but...when your last game in the lineup was on Feb. 20, you have to make those opportunities count.
Snoop Dogg was in the booth for the second period. I did not know that was a thing in NHL 20. It's a shame it wasn't with Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. That would have been quite the trio.
Washington was scheduled to play the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio on Thursday.
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