By allowing the Minnesota Wild to score the first goal Friday night, sloppy play in the first period once again forced the Capitals once again into a rally position. “It looked like a demonstration on how not to play hockey,” said coach Barry Trotz of the team’s first period performance.
However, what’s most troublesome is that since Snovechkin, the monster snowstorm that caused the cancellation games on January 22 and 24, the Capitals seem to have become a come from behind team.
Since the storm, the Capitals have only managed to eke out the first score in three of their past 14 games marking a significant decline from their previous ability of securing the first score in 29 of their first 46 games – more than 60 percent of the time. While their ability to control the puck from the blocks has waned, the Caps rally for a come from behind win — definitely a confidence booster but as Nicklas Backstrom said after last night’s game, “That’s not going to work in the playoffs when you’re playing teams that can really shut you down.”
While the Caps team seems to know what to do, the execution of the plan is proving to be difficult. “We’re talking about it every day,” Backstrom says. Last night, Trotz indicated he was stepping back a bit to let the team figure it out. A wise strategy given as we saw the team’s play improve throughout each period ultimately allowing them to clinch and hold their lead over the Wild. But sometimes the awareness that there’s a problem creates anxiety that allows it to continue, “Right now we’re just kind of wanting to get that stat fixed so badly that we’re pushing things in places where we usually wouldn’t,” said Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
Clearly, the Caps need to get back to the basics and focus on their strengths as a team like cycling the puck, taking shots, and getting in front of the net. As Brooks Orpik point out, “We’ve got 21 games to figure it out”.
By Stephanie Judge