If the Capitals are to have an extended playoff run, the team will need to figure out a method for playing consistently well – night in and night out.
By Bill Sands
For those of us who have been following the Washington Capitals for more than a few years, we’re all too familiar with the maddening inconsistency that this team displays on a regular basis.
Whether it’s losing 5-0 to the Rangers in Game 7 at home or blowing a 3-1 series lead against Montreal (and losing that Game 7 at home as well), Washington just can’t figure out how to master the “big game.” Long road trips often reveal a lot about the character of a team, and this recent trip to the Midwest and Canada was rife with red flags and warning signs.
The Ups and Downs of a Capitals Road Trip
Things started out well, as the Caps had a lead late in the third period in Winnipeg. Not only did the Caps blow the lead, but they did so while on the power-play. They then went on to lose in overtime, earning a standings point but leaving one behind.
After facing such a tough loss, the Caps turned around and dominated the Minnesota Wild, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before coming away with a 5-2 win. Rather than build off that momentum, Washington played probably the worst game of the year and lost 7-1 in Chicago – a contest that saw Alex Ovechkin record zero scoring chances in a game for the first time in his illustrious career. The Caps then finished the road trip with a boring but effective win over the Buffalo Sabres on President’s Day.
Caps: No Momentum
If you were to tell fans that the team would go 2-1-1 on their road trip, most fans would be happy with that result. While taking five out of a possible eight points is nothing to sneeze at, the Caps have once again showed that there’s no telling which team is going to take the ice on any given day. Two consecutive bad games can cost you a playoff series, and Washington needs to change something or else it’ll be more of the same in May.
Perhaps most troubling is the team’s inability to build momentum on the heels of a big win. Rather than using the win in Minnesota to steamroll a Blackhawks team on a lengthy losing streak, the Caps came out flat and never had a chance.
On the plus side, the team isn’t deterred by ugly losses. This would normally be a good thing, but when that ugly loss comes in Game 7, there’s no “next game” to use as a bounce-back effort.
If the Caps (and their fans) want to see a different result this spring, the team will need to tighten up and figure out a method for getting the same results night in and night out.