Capitals coach Dale Hunter tried to explain away his players’ frustrations. After a 5-0 loss in the heat of a Stanley Cup playoff chase, their words are caustic and harsh and blunt in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. They didn’t have answers for their disappointing play. Solid for three games in a row, awful on Friday against the New Jersey Devils and last week against Ottawa and Carolina.
"No, no. You know, it’s a frustrating game. It’s all frustration," Hunter said. "And the other team doesn’t have it. They’re up 5-0. They don’t have to do anything. They can just sit back and wait for us to try to do stuff offensively to try to score and it ends up you do the wrong thing. You should just dump it in and chase and wait for your own chances. And that’s the game of hockey."
Washington was outscored 15-2 in its three most recent losses, an unacceptable margin. And so while there is acknowledgment that an opportunity was missed and that in reality was no different than any other defeat – 1-0 or 10-1 it’s all the same in the standings – this goes beyond that. The result hurts, but the way they’re losing adds to the sting. It’s hard to have much hope given such struggles.
“It’s not what we wanted, that’s for sure. Especially with what happened in the standings last night,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “And now we’re on the outside looking in again. And we really thought that getting two points tonight would have put us in a real good spot with a lot of confidence. And now it’s the opposite and we got to find our confidence and find our game again.”
That’s won’t be easy against the Philadelphia Flyers, another elite road team that won’t be intimidated coming into Verizon Center. The Caps are now 1-1 on this critical five-game homestand. They can’t afford to let any more of these home games get away. But it’s difficult to have much confidence when your team becomes “two-faced” – as veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun described it last week.
“We’re lucky this game wasn’t a week ago before the trade deadline because this was an embarrassing game,” veteran forward Jeff Halpern said.
Turnovers were the biggest issue. New Jersey is an aggressive team and time and again stood up Washington’s forwards – in the neutral zone, at both bluelines. Alex Semin had an awful giveaway that led to Dainius Zubrus’ goal in the first period. Mike Green whiffed on a puck and cost his team a 2-on-1 that led to one of Zach Parise’s three goals. Brooks Laich was stripped of the puck at the blueline on a second-period power play, Dennis Wideman didn’t do enough to protect him and the Devils recorded their league-best 14th short-handed goal.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We got to tighten up our game, especially at our bluelines,” Browuer said. “We had a couple plays where we didn’t get pucks out. Couple plays where we didn’t get pucks in. A lot of them resulted in either goals on us or a long, sustained defensive zone shift and we just can’t have that if we want to try and win.”
That’s all the more frustrating given the opponent. It’s not like the Caps didn’t know this was coming if they tried to play a certain way against New Jersey. Give up an early goal, try to do too much to get it back and they feast on your mistakes.
“Too many turnovers. That was the story of the game,” Laich said. “Too many turnovers. Keep pucks along the wall. New Jersey, for years and years, has controlled the middle of the ice and lived off turnovers. We made it too easy for them.”
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