Alex Ovechkin Fights, Bruce Boudreau's Seat Warms as Caps Lose Again
Alex Ovechkin threw off the gloves for only the second time of his career, not that it did much to spark the slumping Washington Capitals.
The Caps' slide reached six games -- the longest since March 2007 -- as the New York Rangers eased to a 7-0 victory behind a 31-save effort by Henrik Lundqvist at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. The Caps already surpassed the longest streak since Bruce Boudreau's tenure behind the bench, a stint that could be soon nearing its end if the defending Presidents' Trophy winners fail to show signs of life.
Ovechkin dropped the gloves midway through the second period with his team already down 4-0 after he delivered a hip check to Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. Ovechkin skated to center ice where he found an unsuspecting Brandon Dubinsky, and the Great 8's first -- and only -- regular-season fight since he went up against the Sabres' Paul Gaustad in Dec. 2006 ensued.
"It (was) just a moment in the game," Ovechkin told reporters after the game. "Nothing special happened."
No fire, however, was lit as Rangers defenseman Marc Staal scored a shorthanded goal seconds later. Ovechkin, who fought to a draw with Dubinsky, eventually left in the middle of the third period after teammate Alexander Semin sent a wrist shot off his right leg, although he would have returned had the game been close.
It's not clear how the most lopsided loss of the season affects Boudreau's standing with the team. Of course, Boudreau can't make saves -- Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth can't seem to do that either -- and what was the league's most high-powered offense can't get shut out like the Caps have been twice during this consecutive loss streak.
"I don't have an answer right now," Boudreau told reporters after the game. "I have got to think about this. It's unfamiliar territory. I think we have a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves. As you can tell, when you get down, teams aren't feeling sorry for you. They are pushing it on and piling it on. We have to find a way to get ahead of this before it's too late."
The answer Monday was a day off, something that was planned before the drubbing.
GM George McPhee has been resistant to trading his young talent -- outside of the recent deal that sent Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for defenseman Scott Hannan -- and he opted to stick with his two young goalies and let Jose Theodore walk last offseason. That likely means the team that was manhandled by a Rangers team that has struggled at MSG will look nearly identical to what it enters the playoffs with -- outside of a total collapse that leaves Washington outside of the playoff picture.
McPhee, who is one of more tight-lipped executives in the NHL, has given no indication he's dissatisfied with Boudreau. But midseason coaching changes are common and the well-liked coach's dismissal would certainly shake things up. McPhee did fire the Caps' previous coach, Glen Hanlon, after the Caps' previous longest skid (five games).
Boudreau, however, could be given a little more latitude since his top defensive pairing -- Mike Green (day to day with the flu) and Jeff Schultz (out up to eight weeks with a broken thumb) -- were out of action again Sunday.