The Capitals looked for revenge Sunday night against the Fife Flyers. After losing in Kirkcaldy by a score of 6-2, the Capitals returned home to Murrayfield to face their neighbours yet again. The Capitals would be presented with a golden opportunity to open the scoring, when Fife’s Liam Heelis would go to the box for boarding 1:30 into the period. Despite keeping good control of the puck and working it around Fife’s zone relatively well, the Capitals could not score on the powerplay. At 8:17, Jay King would receive a penalty for hooking, giving Fife their first powerplay. Due to good aggressive penalty killing from the Capitals, Fife were unable to generate many chances on their man advantage. Most of the period would consist of back and forth, evenly balanced hockey, though the Capitals looked far more secure defensively, with positioning more akin to the Coventry game than their last home match against Cardiff. Both teams would be penalized within a minute of each other, leading to some 4v4 hockey. During this period, Pavel Vorobyev showed his strength on the penalty kill ensuing after the 4v4 play, holding the puck against the boards in Fife’s zone and fighting off two Fife players to keep it there. Despite their solid looking play, the Capitals gave up a goal late in the period to Carlo Finucci, who was the recipient of a lucky bounce which beat Pavel Shegalo at 17:59. Sergei Banashkov had the best chance for the Capitals, going in on a breakaway after the goal, but was stopped by Fife goalie Andy Iles. Nikita Kolesnikovs threw a monster hit with 3:10 remaining in the period, showing why the Capitals resigned him.
Score after one: Capitals 0 Fife Flyers 1
The Capitals started off the period on the defensive, as Fife established a brief period of control. Shegalo was up for the test, and flashed his glove to deny the Flyers a goal. Things would go worse for Fife as they received a penalty (Danick Gauthier for charging). On this powerplay, from behind the net, Pavel Vorobyev would win a battle, forcing the puck to Dylan Anderson who passed the puck into the slot, and it was eventually forced in by Michael D’Orazio from in close. Tie game. Unfortunately, the lead would not last long as Fife charged into the Capitals’ zone on a 2v1, and Charlie Mosey ended up on the receiving end of a cross ice pass which left Shegalo helpless to prevent Fife from regaining the lead. The Capitals would receive two penalties during the period, and demonstrated so far in the game a superior penalty kill. The PK team of Juris Upitis and Igor Valeyev have looked utterly dominant in shutting down Fife, along with defencemen Kolesnikovs and Teslyukevic. The Capitals would be gifted 40 seconds of 5 on 3 powerplay at 14:22, but were unable to score on the 5 on 3 or during the 5 on 4. The Capitals simply could not pull the trigger for a shot, and wasted a golden opportunity to tie the game again at 2.
Score after two: Capitals 1 Fife Flyers 2
The game would unfortunately fall away from the Capitals in the 3rd period. After another successful penalty kill, with particularly strong play from Nikita Kolesnikovs, the Capitals would give up two goals in three minutes, the second of which was on the powerplay when the Capitals let Fife forward Evan Bloodoff walk into the slot and score into a partially open net. The Flyers would score another powerplay goal at 11:57 from Peter Leblanc, which forced the Capitals into a goaltending change, replacing Shegalo with Jordan McLaughlin. Ultimately, the Capitals were downed by their inability to generate effective offense against Fife. They once again fell into a pattern of taking the puck into traffic, easily letting the Flyers backcheckers steal it and start a breakaway rush.
Final Score: Capitals 1 Fife Flyers 5
- Penalty kill puts on a show
Don’t let the two powerplay goals against distract from this brilliant PK performance from the Capitals. They killed off 5/7 powerplays against, and Upitis along with Valeyev played their roles effectively and practically shut down the Fife powerplay. Shegalo also did his part to keep Fife off the board, though his rebound control in this game was not as good as in previous games. “I thought we played two good periods,” said alternate captain Mike Cazzola after the game when I spoke to him. “I thought we matched them for 40 minutes, and it wasn’t until a couple of small breakdowns in our D-zone…and that’s what happens when you play a good team.”
2. Offensive struggles
Again, I noticed the Capitals were unable to establish any sort of cycle or control in the offensive zone, regardless of the presence of Pavel Vorobyev on the top line. Often times, I would look up to notice one Capital forward taking the puck into the Fife zone all alone, surrounded by white jerseys, only to have the puck stolen off of him easily. This strategy only works when the opponent makes a mistake or if the Capitals get lucky, and today, they weren’t at all lucky. Of the 43 zone entries we were able to track from the Capitals, 31 of these entries were controlled entries over the blue line, which works if there is support for the puck carrying player. However, tonight for most of their attempts there was no support. Fife were just that much better at their rushes offensively this game.
3. Decision making breakdown
Especially evident on the powerplay, the Capitals exhibited poor decision making offensively tonight. There were times when a lane would be wide open for a forward or defenceman to waltz into and take a shot, but they just were blinded tonight, and simply didn’t recognize this, opting to try risky or ill-advised passes. For most of these passes, I saw the idea and recognized they could have been a potentially high danger chances for the Capitals, but their execution was off, either due to tiring skaters, or simply a lack of the appropriate skill.
The Capitals play at home next on the 10th of December against Coventry.
Image Courtesy of Edinburgh Capitals