The Washington Capitals can’t score on the power play, are getting mediocre goaltending, and have seen their overall shooting percentage fall off a cliff. Those three things have combined to sabotage a hot start where the Capitals spent much of the season leading the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals have fallen to fourth place in the Metro after losing eight of their last 11 games. They are currently in a stretch where they’ve won four games in regulation over their last 19 games. They have only one regulation win in January.
The Capitals tried to explain what was wrong after their latest listless loss, a 4-1 failing against the San Jose Sharks.
“I feel like it’s mostly puck luck,” a dejected Lars Eller said postgame. “I think we’re generating 10-plus good scoring chances a game and right now, it feels like they’re just not going in. For whatever reason, we have to work really hard for our goals right now. It’s not coming easy for us. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve seen over the last handful of games.”
A concerned-looking John Carlson admitted all the losing was beginning to feel very frustrating.
“It’s pretty tough,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great talented players that expect to score when they’re seeing opportunities. We keep putting ourselves in good positions, getting to good areas, moving the goalie, fighting for those extra pucks, it’s gotta switch at some point. I don’t think anyone expects this to go on forever. It’s tough as a player, I’m sure it’s tough as a coach too. You have high expectations of yourself… We got guys who have scored hundreds of goals that expect to be putting it in the back of the net a lot more than we are. That’s something we talk about. Something we’ve got to deal with. We hope the best and keep making sure the work ethic and that sort of thing is at the right level to keep getting those chances.”
“There’s some that seem like they should be going in,” Peter Laviolette added. “They’re through a seam… and we’re missing the post. It’s going over. Goalie’s making a save. Stick’s breaking. Whatever it is, it’s not happening.”
The bad puck luck that the Capitals cite is A Thing. After starting the season as one of the league’s best five-on-five teams, the Capitals have seen their shooting percentage fall off a cliff in January.
Graph by Peter Hassett/RMNB
To complicate matters, the team is without TJ Oshie and Anthony Mantha – two of their best offensive players due to injury. The Capitals, who are also one of the league’s most veteran teams, are playing their first full 82-game season since the 2018-19 season. It’s like they’ve hit a wall.
What’s not helping the Caps is their poor starts lately. They’ve surrendered the first goal in all three games of their current homestand.
“I don’t like the first half of the first period,” Laviolette said. “We’re outdone in too many areas. That’s not good. We can’t accept that. I thought the last eight minutes we got going a little bit. For me the game was just okay. I think we’re better than that. It’d be nice if some of those (shots) dropped, but they’re not right now. For me, the start didn’t start the way we wanted and then you’re chasing the game again. It gets more difficult when you’re chasing the game.
“There’s no excuse to that. They were quicker. They were more battle-ready. We’ve got to be more prepared than that at the start of a game.”
Even though there are several broader areas where the team appears to be struggling, Laviolette was not ready to point to those things as reasons why the team is not performing up to par.
“Every game is different,” he said. “It’s hard to paint the brush with one stroke and (say) this is what’s wrong. Tonight’s there are definitely things we can do better. We addressed those things and we’ll move forward. We’ll definitely count on the leadership in the room to get this ship moving in the right direction. Tomorrow we’ll get back to work.”
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