The Washington Capitals lost their fifth preseason game on Friday night, with their record falling to 1-5. Their lone win came in a game they were dramatically outshot in but were able to find the net. With one more game to go on Sunday in St. Louis against the Blues, the Capitals’ September exhibition goal differential stands at 21-8.
After the loss, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz called the team’s play “disturbing.” About 14 hours later, he said their offensive output was “embarrassing.” It may be the preseason, but the Capitals are close to settling on their final roster. Anyone in the lineup during their previous two dismal losses could make Thursday’s opening night squad.
Trotz’s explanation for this year’s struggles should frighten Caps fans.
“If you talk to players, it’s been a little bit harder to get the energy this year based on how it ended and the summer,” Trotz told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex after Saturday’s practice.
Trotz’s statement echoes the comments of several players who departed during the offseason.
Karl Alzner, who had spent his entire career in Washington before signing with Montreal in the summer, conceded the team might have lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in part due to pressure put on them.
“It’s definitely possible,” the veteran said when asked if the Caps lost in part because of mental state on breakdown day. “You can only get to the second round so many times before you have to think that something needs to be changed.”
Much of the team’s depth left over the offseason, but the team’s core and leadership remained intact. In their first preseason games since the loss in Game Seven of the Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team’s superstars have played poorly.
“We’ve got nothing from our top guys to this point regarding production and points,” Trotz said Saturday but added that he expected them to improve their game.
On the same day Alzner spoke, rental defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk provided far more information than his short-term teammates were willing to.
“You can feel it,” said on breakdown day. “Of course you can feel it. It’s everywhere surrounding this team. It’s media. It’s the fans. It’s the players. The tough part here is that I don’t think there’s ever been many years where Washington has been considered a team that doesn’t have a chance to win.”
According to Trotz, the aura around the team has never gone away.
“We got stuck in last year’s energy or lack of at the end. It took a piece of us and now we’ve got to dust ourselves off here and go ‘Hey, you know what? It’s for real. Let’s get going. We’re professional. Let’s quit with the self-pity and all that. Whatever’s holding us back, let’s go play, because we can play.”
Before Trotz had finished speaking, a Capitals representative abruptly ended the press conference.
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