Over the course of the 2011-12 season, slow starts have become one of the Washington Capitals’ unshakable habits.
They’ve given up the first goal in 32 of 60 games so far this season, and following a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, the Capitals have now allowed the first goal in all but 10 of their 31 road games this season (they are 6-13-2 when doing so).
The good news is that Washington plays seven of its next nine at home in Verizon Center, but the ability to score first and play from a position of strength is still something that has occurred far to infrequently for the team this season. Spotting the Senators a four-goal head start on Wednesday simply served as another reminder.
“It’s not a good thing to have to come back,” winger Troy Brouwer said. “We’ve been able to come back a few games here and there late in games. But at this time of the year, teams are too sound in their systems and their defensive play. You’re not going to get very many games where you’re going to be able to come back with them.”
Washington has allowed the first goal in six straight contests. In five of those past six, the team has fallen behind 2-0 to start a game. For a Capitals squad that has recorded three or more goals just three times in the past 10 games, falling behind puts more pressure on the offense and as they take risks, there are more mistakes that lead to more odd-man rushes against.
Like nearly every team in the NHL, Washington fares much better in a contest when it can get on the board first. The Capitals are 18-6-3 when scoring the first goal of a game.
“We’re a much better team,” Mathieu Perreault said of when the Capitals can score first. “Lately we’ve been giving up the first goal within five minutes every game. We’ve got to find a way to get off to good starts and stop playing behind the eight ball. We’ve got to get off to a good start and maybe we lead and go from there.”