Photo credit: Alex Brandon
Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Washington Capitals were confident. With a new coach this year, they had turned into a crisp, well-structured team, generally controlling the puck and therefore the play. They finished the season tied for the eighth highest point total in the league.
“In the past we were maybe sort of a rush team,” forward Brooks Laich, a veteran of the light ’em up Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals of 2010, said. “I don’t think we’re as high flying, high octane offense as we once were, but I think we’re a lot more difficult to play against this way. It should bode well for a sustained playoff run.”
“We’re gonna be ready,” Laich concluded.
For the first 55 minutes of Washington’s 4-1 game one loss to the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Capitals looked more like a collection of bloopers you’d see on Tosh.0 than a coherent hockey team. Throughout the night, the team failed to collect loose pucks, fumbled while trying to exit the defensive zone and sent passes into no man’s land. Head coach Barry Trotz shuffled the lines to no end, but nothing helped. They finished with 11 turnovers, double New York’s total, with that stat hiding a myriad of additional sloppy plays.
After game one, Laich’s tone was a negative copy of his mood on Monday. He and the rest of the Capitals were dejected and angry.
“It starts with thinking quicker and moving quicker,” Laich said. “The result is that we look like a slow team. It has to get better.”
“I think it was just on us,” he added.
Though two periods, the Islanders outshot the Capitals 44 to 29 during five-on-five play. The Capitals eventually evened those numbers up by the end of the game, but by then the result was mostly in the bag.
“We know they are really good in the neutral zone, and we didn’t manage the puck very well,” Brooks Orpik said of the turnovers. “If you turn the puck over against them, they are a really good transition team. They made us pay a few times.”
Trotz agreed. There was a long wait to enter the Capitals locker room, with Trotz either chewing the plays out or letting them wallow in defeat.
“We need to be a lot sharper,” the coach said. “That goes right through the whole lineup.”
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