By Chris Gordon
In their final home preseason game, the Washington Capitals came out insipid in front of a small collection of fans who gathered at the newly minted Capital One Arena on a weekday night. Many left early as the Capitals delivered a type of game that has been the norm this September for the team, losing 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils. Washington has lost four of five of their dry-run games, scoring just seven combined goals.
When asked what the team needed to take away from the game blueliner John Carlson flatly told reporters: “Don’t do that again.”
For the Caps, it was their third 4-1 loss of the preseason, with an additional 4-0 shutout delivered by the St. Louis Blues. With two games left to steady themselves before the puck drops on October 5 in Ottawa, the Capitals seem distressed about the state of the team. They refused to use the fluctuating lineup (necessary to evaluate which players will make the team) as an excuse – and they couldn’t. Wednesday’s group was a full NHL lineup, though not the exact look the Caps will use come opening night.
“We never want to come out and say ‘Oh, things didn’t go our way. We didn’t do too much, and it’s the preseason and move on,” said Carlson. “I think it’s been a little bit too long,” he added, referring to Washington’s poor play.
Just like the previous lopsided losses this month, the Capitals looked to be in disarray, especially on defense as three goals were scored on them in the first 9:02 of the contest. New Jersey added a fourth a little over five minutes later.
“Teams have come in and jumped on us,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said.
After the four Devils goals, the Capitals seemed to care just as much as I did as I watched from in the press box. With the same pairings all week, an unfamiliar defense is not at fault.
“We were just sloppy,” Carlson said of the rear guard.
The Capitals were easily outshot, 33-23 in the game. They’ve been outshot by a margin of 42 this preseason, which includes Washington’s 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens in which the Habs controlled the puck, if not the scoreboard.
There are 120 minutes of regulation play left in the preseason starting with Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Capitals hope a day off and 42 hours of rest will be the panacea the team is looking for.
“Our biggest disappointment is we haven’t found our game,” Trotz said. “We’re not there.”
Headline photo: Nick Wass
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