After getting off to the second-best start in franchise history, the Washington Capitals have hit a figurative wall over the last week. The team has lost four-straight games in regulation for the first time since 2014 (October 26 thru November 2, 2014) – the first month under Barry Trotz. The Caps lost all three games of their west coast road trip – a span of three games in four nights (including daylight saving time).
Capitals’ alternate captain Brooks Orpik was asked by Capital Radio’s John Walton after the game what it would take to snap out of this funk. He had a very frank answer.
“We make hockey our first priority and focus a little better than we did on this trip,” Orpik said bluntly.
The Capitals’ Mike Vogel asked a follow-up.
“We don’t need to elaborate,” Orpik said, cutting him off.
Several seconds of awkward silence followed.
Vogel then asked Orpik if it was the five bad minutes in the second period that undid the Capitals.
“Yeah, that and penalties,” Orpik replied. “I think we’re all guilty of how lately we are spending too much time in the box. Give good powerplays good opportunities and they’re going to make you pay, especially this time of year. It’s kind of the same old story.”
While the Capitals were outscored 13-6 during the road trip, they actually deserved a better fate when you look deeper at the analytics. The Capitals out-attempted their three Western Conference opponents 116-102 at even strength. The Capitals out-attempted the Ducks by eight (48 – 40) and the Kings by eight (35 – 27). The Capitals also nearly stayed even with the Sharks (33 – 35).
The difference appears to be bad puck luck and special teams. The Capitals were outscored 5-2 on the powerplay during the trip. They also got four less opportunities than their opponents (2 for 13 to 5 for 17).
Regardless of the Capitals performance, look for the team to heed Orpik’s words heading into their Tuesday night home game against the Minnesota Wild. We don’t know what goes on in the locker room, but it’s clear the 36-year-old Stanley Cup champion saw something he did not like.
Chris Cerullo also contributed to this article.
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