After another loss, this time to Florida Panthers, the Washington Capitals need to improve fast. Otherwise, they will find themselves losing control over the Metropolitan Division.
Washington Capitals Need To Improve Fast
At the middle point of this season, the Washington Capitals looked to have learned from previous mistakes.They were playing good hockey and looked formidable. Since then, they have struggled to have an impact on games, often only scraping through with a win in overtime. Currently 34-20-7, they have lost their top spot to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philidelphia Flyers are looming one point behind, both of whom are on hot streaks right now. The Capitals need to improve on a number of issues before its too late.
Need To Improve Defence
Defensive issues are by far one of the main reasons why the Capitals are becoming unstuck. Too many defensive errors and turnovers in their own end were all too apparent in their game against the Panthers. Brooks Orpik is one culprit of this, his possession numbers are well below average at 42.9 Corsi For with a -7.4 rel CF%.
This also emphasizes a bigger issue of having no real bottom six defensive depth. Something the Capitals will have to improve on nearing trading time.
Because of this, the Capitals defense is getting caught out not picking up their man, that then leads to odd-man rushes. For a team that is flush with skilled players, this is basic hockey stuff. They will need to work on this awareness to really make a run in the playoffs this year.
With their defensive issues, they need consistency between the pipes. Usually, the Capitals can count on goaltender Braden Holtby but the Canadian goaltender has been uncharacteristically under-performing of late. He currently boasts a goals-against-average of 2.95, and a .909 save percentage, making it the worst season statistically of his career. Holtby has now lost five straight starts for the first time in his career, but he had a great game in Florida and kept his team in the contest by pulling off spectacular saves in all three periods.
Holtby honorably, but unnecessarily, took the blame for Washington’s funk in an AllCaps Tv post game interview after their loss to Tampa Bay Lighting:
“That’s on no one else but me,” Holtby stated. “Especially the third and fourth goal — that’s the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team, and we should’ve got a better result. That’s on me why we didn’t.”
Holtby has started in all of his 45 games played this season, with limited defensive backup he may just need some time and rest to naturally get out of his slump. In the meantime, Philipp Grubauer is more than capable to take the slack.
It’s obvious that defense and goaltending improvements will assist the Capitals chances to win games and safely secure a playoff spot, but to really make an impact this season every player needs to improve.
Key Players Keeping Quiet
One player keeping unusually under the radar for the Caps is T.J. Oshie. Since returning from injury he has struggled to find his groove. Before his concussion, he scored ten goals and added 13 assists this season. Since then he has only contributed two goals and eight assists in 27 games. It’s may still be injury related, but Oshie needs to get his A-game ready and fast.
The Russian star Evgeny Kuznetsov has been a vital goal contributor this season for the Capitals. Currently second for goals (16) and points (55) behind Alexander Ovechkin. However, in the last 25 games, Kuznetsov has only scored four goals. If the Capitals have any chance of keeping a playoff spot, these key players need to improve their contribution to the team.
What The Capitals Need To Do.
These key issues need to be addressed if the Capitals want to improve from this slump. Barry Trotz needs to shake up his lineup, and give young talented players a chance to infuse some urgency.
Players like Jakub Vrana can do this, but he does not get played to his full potential. While underachievers such as Chandler Stephenson and Alex Chiasson get placed in the lineup. The inconsistencies are destroying the moral.
Every player needs to step up their game, they are currently looking flat and uninterested. Instead of waiting for the perfect pass or shot they need to pound the net and be relentless on each loose puck.
Most importantly they need to do all this for the whole 60 minutes, they can no longer afford to sit back. The Capitals need to improve these issues quickly or they might be in danger of losing it all.
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