Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
To say the Capitals have had consistency issues would be an understatement. After playing a great game and winning against the Pittsburgh Penguins just ten days ago, Washington played three fairly uninspired games, and winning just one of them.
After getting buried by the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, the team knew they needed to get their butts in gear. So they came out against the red-hot Minnesota Wild just two days ago, played a complete game and won 3-1. Things were looking up.
But the winning ways didn’t continue as they dropped a 1-4 loss to the Calgary Flames Monday night, just two days after their impressive win against Minnesota. “We were hoping to build off that.” Matt Niskanen said. “Saturday was a good effort, tonight was blah.” Center Nicklas Backstrom added, “I was surprised [we lost].”
To be fair, the Capitals loss to the Flames wasn’t like their recent games. They did have a 13-9 advantage in the High Danger Scoring Chances according to Natural Stat Trick. Ultimately their penalty kill let them down, allowing three of the four goals against. Still, it was disappointment to the team. “We have to play with a lot more will and determination and energy.” Lars Eller stated, “I think some energy is lacking in our 5v5 game. I know this team can bring a lot more than what we’ve been showing. It’s a little bit of a theme for us lately. And if we continue like that we are going to hover around .500.”
Eller continued with his theories as to why the Capitals have been consistently inconsistent. “Teams go through rough stretches during the season and I think we’ve been able to win games on our skill and got away with stuff. Games like today we don’t get away with that.”
It’s no secret the Capitals lost talent in the offseason. They are no longer stacked and lines can’t rely on other lines to pick up the slack. It will have to be a team effort every night from everyone. The sooner the Capitals learn that, the quicker they can get back to their consistent ways.
Niskanen echoed these sentiments. “It’s going to be tough sledding this year. We are going to have to work really hard to be consistent. It’s not going to be easy for us I think. We’re going to have to learn some tough lessons along the way.” He continued, “I don’t think we can fall behind in games like we have in the past. Every play matters. The smallest plays maybe didn’t make a difference in the past, but right now it seems to bite us if we fall asleep for just a split second. We’re going to have to be on our toes and play better.”
So how do you fix this? How do you get a team used to dominating the other team with every line, learn to play with more consistency? Backstrom thinks he has the answer, “I think we have to simplify our games a little bit. Stick to what we’re good at it. Play simple.” He continued, “We’re not going to win games 6-1.
We have to realize sometimes you have to find a way to grind games out.” Eller added, “Everybody has to get the mindset too, to play their heart out. I think we can do a lot better job of that.” And finally Niskanen added, “We need to learn from our bad stuff and try to turn it around.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Capitals. They play the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, then have a brutal back-to-back set, playing the Tampa Bay Lightning at home before playing away against the Toronto Maple Leafs the next day. It’s more important than ever that the Capitals start finding some consistency and get some traction. Because as Eller put it, “It’s November but the playoff race is right now.”
By Luke Adomanis