After two letdowns against Pacific Division opponents at home last week, the Washington Capitals left Verizon Center for a five-game road trip serenaded by a chorus of boos from the fans who hadn't already left for the exits. On Monday, the Caps will play their third straight game against a Pacific Division opponent and hope to avoid a St. Valentine's Day massacre in the desert when they face off with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Last Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks handed the Caps their eighth shutout loss of the season in a 2-0 contest. Saturday, Alex Ovechkin scored 1:06 into the game, but that would be all of the offense the Caps would muster in a 4-1 loss that facilitated a players-only meeting after the game. Washington fell to 3-6-1 against Western opponents this season and have now lost six straight against the West and five of seven overall.
Talking about the Capitals' scoring woes (2.00 GF/G in their past 10 games) and missing power play (no multi-PP goal games since November 26) has become much like beating a dead horse. To put things into perspective, Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata has four goals in his last three games, the same amount of goals that the Capitals as a team have in the same span. Things won't get any easier for them when they face Ilya Bryzgalov Monday. Bryzgalov is 4-0-0 in his last four starts with a .098 GAA and two shutouts. Yet, Bryzgalov lost his only career start against the Capitals, a 4-2 defeat last January at Verizon Center.
The Coyotes, like the Caps, sit in fifth place in the Western Conference and second in the Pacific Division. All-Star Keith Yandle leads the team with 46 points, followed by Ray Whitney's 42 points and Shane Doan's 37. Former Cap Eric Belanger has 24 points. A win against the Pacific would do the Caps some good; they have two more games following Monday against Pacific inhabitants when they face the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday and look for revenge against the Sharks Thursday.