ARLINGTON, Va. -- Upon returning to Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday following their 4-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins the evening before, the Washington Capitals spent the bulk of their time in video sessions analyzing what arguably was their worst overall performance of the season.
What went wrong Wednesday reads like a laundry list of recurring issues: Sloppy passing and poor decision-making that prevented the Capitals from cleanly breaking out of the defensive zone and generating any sort of offensive rhythm, missed assignments, uninspiring responses to goals-against.
Another problem area exposed Wednesday was the sheer number of shots Washington is allowing.
The Penguins outshot the Capitals 40-18, with a 34-10 edge in even-strength shots. Including the Capitals' 4-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday in which they were outshot 47-20, the 49-shot two-game discrepancy in shot differential was their largest in almost 10 years, according to JapersRink.com.
Washington's 35 shots allowed per game, 26th in the League, puts it on pace to allow 2,870 this season. That would be the second-most allowed by the franchise since 1987-88 and the 11th-most among all teams in that span.
If that is not enough, then consider the Capitals have allowed 30 or more shots in 19 of their 22 games this season, a total only the Toronto Maple Leafs can match.
"They can have 50 shots on net and as long as we win the game it doesn't really matter to us," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "I think sometimes too much stock gets put into being outplayed because one team shoots the puck more. I don't have a problem with it. I don't know if the coaching staff has a problem with it. Hopefully not."
Coach Adam Oates said flatly: "Too many."
Shot totals don't equate to quality scoring chances, but it is indicative of a larger possession-centric problem. According to ExtraSkater.com, Washington's 46.4 Fenwick-for percentage (which measures shots on goals plus misses, but not blocked shots) at even strength ranks 28th in the League.
These are numbers that should be a cause for concern for the Capitals and must be rectified before they become commonplace.
For the Canadiens defenseman Francis Bouillon will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season, with Douglas Murray taking his place in the lineup.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said he spoke to Bouillon, 38, when defenseman Alexei Emelin returned from injury Nov. 16 and informed him that he will need to sit out a game from time to time with seven healthy defensemen on the roster, particularly when the team plays two games in two nights.
Therrien confirmed Bouillon will return to the lineup Saturday at Bell Centre against the Penguins.
Murray, 33, said he was upset when Therrien informed him he would be scratched to make room for Emelin and vowed to play better in order to keep his spot in the lineup. Therrien said he doesn't want Murray, who sat out both games Emelin has played, to be a healthy scratch for long stretches.
Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Montreal Canadiens for their game on Friday at Verizon Center.
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich - Martin Erat - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mikhail Grabovski - Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson
John Carlson - Karl Alzner
Nate Schmidt - Mike Green
Alexander Urbom - Tyson Strachan
Scratched: Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr, Steve Oleksy
Injured: John Erskine (knee), Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau)
Notes: Erat will center the second line, switching places with Laich, who will shift to left wing. According to Oates, it was a move that he hopes will provide the second line with more sustained offensive zone time.
"Every team backchecks so well, they get five guys back in the defensive zone that if you don’t have a sure thing off the rush you've got to win the battles behind the net," Oates said. "Now we've got some meat going down the boards. It puts Marty in a difficult spot because he hasn't played that position in a long time but he's also a very smart player. It should free him up a little bit."
All signs point to Green returning from a lower-body contusion after missing three games, though neither Green nor Oates committed to that following the morning skate. Dmitry Orlov was sent back to Hershey of the American Hockey League to make room for Green's return.
Daniel Briere - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk - Lars Eller - Brandon Prust
Travis Moen - Ryan White - Michael Bournival
Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Josh Gorges - Alexei Emelin
Douglas Murray - Raphael Diaz
Scratched: George Parros, Francis Bouillon
Injured: Rene Bourque (lower body), Davis Drewiske (shoulder)