The Washington Capitals are angry — just look at what Alex Ovechkin did in New York on Sunday:
Clearly, Ovechkin's sick of the way his team is playing, and he made it known with his ridiculous hit on Dan Girardi and then his gloves-on jumping of Brandon Dubinsky. Ovechkin definitely crossed a few lines, but the inspiration was more likely drawn from frustration than it was malice.
That's because Sunday's game — which the Caps would eventually lose 7-0 — was the sixth-straight setback for Washington, as they've picked up just three points since the calendar turned to December. While part of that is because of a lack of scoring, the less-than-stellar goaltending has to make the Caps wonder if they should have pushed harder for Tim Thomas last summer.
The veteran netminder was coming off a bad year. Combine that with the Bruins' salary cap (evidenced by trading away Marco Sturm for "nothing"), and the Caps probably wouldn't have had to give up much to land Thomas.
Instead, they went with the young duo of Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. They're both 22 years old, and they both look like they could be fantastic goalies over the next two decades.
But today is not two decades from now. Today is today, and the Caps are trying to win a Stanley Cup. Doing so with Neuvirth and Varlamov may be as difficult as advertised. Neuvirth ranks 29th in save percentage at .908, with Varlamov posting a .907 mark. Neuvirth ranks 24th in goals-against average at 2.68, while Varlamov is a touch better at 2.62.
Comparing them to Thomas, who has leads the league in save percentage (.954) and GAA (1.51), isn't entirely fair, given the stark contrast of the offensively explosive Capitals and the defensive-minded Bruins. Still, imagining Thomas playing behind a team with such offensive firepower as Washington's has to make fans and management wonder.
The numbers for the youngsters certainly aren't horrible, but managing the psyche of one young netminder is hard enough. Keeping the confidence level high for two of them is that much more difficult for Bruce Boudreau's staff.
"Like young guys every now and again, they have a hiccup, but our guys are going to be there when it's all done," Boudreau said recently, according to The Washington Post. "They've beaten the best, and they will beat the best again, and we have all the belief and faith in the world in both of them."
Belief and faith are wonderful, but wins are even better. It will have been two full weeks since the Caps have had one of those when they next take the ice against Anaheim. Any more struggles, and there will be more questions for the coach and more questions for the goalies.
Perhaps they can turn it around, but perhaps the front office has to really ask "what if" questions as Thomas continues to turn in showstopping performances seemingly every night. The Bruins, meanwhile, are pretty happy with the way things worked out.