The Washington Capitals played their worst game of the season, and it is only the third game of the year. Everything went sideways in their 6-1 bloodbath against the Ottawa Senators. Washington (1-2-0) failed to score the first goal for the third time this year and have yet to have a lead.
“We’re not clicking like a well-oiled machine offensively, power play, finishing chances, two-on-one’s, odd-man rushes, it’s not clicking. They’re not ending up in the back of the net,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said after Wednesday’s loss.
The offense not being in sync has led to a bigger issue for the Caps: A struggling defensive structure, or lack thereof. Darcy Kuemper was once again left out to dry numerous times, and the Washington’s blueliners held onto pucks for too long and did not have any puck support from the wingers, when the Ottawa forecheck was on display.
Josh Norris’s second tally of the game, which made it 3-1 Ottawa, was due to the relentless Senators forecheck, which caused Nick Jensen to turn the puck over behind the net and no one was able to pick up Norris in front. The Capitals forwards started to leave the offensive zone, rather than being down low to give Jensen an easy outlet pass.
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The Senators ended the game with 10 takeaways compared to Washington’s five.
Another incident of being careless defensively was on Claude Giroux’s goal. The Capitals were puck watching and letting the Senators skate circles around them, and it eventually extended Ottawa’s lead to 5-1. Connor McMichael does not recognize Giroux cutting to the goal. Everyone on the ice seemed tired.
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“We’re turning over some pucks maybe in a different year or in a different situation wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But right now, every time we turn over the puck, it’s gonna be a Grade-A [chance], and we have to learn from that,” Carbery said. “So the problem with that is now defensively you have to tighten, tighten, tighten, tighten, tighten if you want to survive games. And that’s what we’re not doing. You have to really play a near perfect game in terms of your puck management, and you’re defending, or else you’re gonna have what you had tonight.”
Meanwhile, Washington’s star players have not found their groove. Alex Ovechkin was held shotless in back-to-back games for the first time in his 19-year NHL career. The Capitals’ captain had an assist on John Carlson’s goal, which was the lone tally of the game. Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Dylan Strome have yet to get on the scoresheet.
“We’re really struggling right now from a standpoint of where we’ve got a lot of guys that are looking to find their game early in the season and aren’t there yet. Usually it’s a few, but we have more than you would call normal. So trying to find our game and what’s compounding the issue is now when we make a mistake, it’s in the back of the net,” Carbery said. “We have to play tighter until we find our groove offensively and can make a play like you saw on the other side of the ice tonight, until we get to that spot, we have to tighten up.”
It is still very early into the year, but the Capitals don’t want to avoid playing catchup once again. Players talked about wanting to get out to a better start to the season. But so far, it hasn’t taken shape and the Caps have yet to put together a full 60 minutes.
Washington will look to fix its defensive mishaps when it takes on the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Centre Bell.
By Jacob Cheris