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Posted at 10:31 AM ET, 11/18/2011

Capitals need to break their bad habits

Unlike when the Capitals struggled last season, there is a different feeling about this stretch of 10 games as they’ve gone 3-6-1. These losses can’t really be boiled down to bad bounces, unfortunate or uncontrollable circumstances. Many of these defeats have been a product of Washington’s bad habits.

While it is November and the Capitals are without Mike Green (strained right groin muscle), they need to find a way to get things on track, or at least a way to not look bewildered in the face of adversity the way they did as Winnipeg surged against them Thursday night.

“Some games we’ve been losing battles and losing games and some games we’ve been winning them and losing games,” Karl Alzner said. “Sometimes you just can’t put it together. It’s five, six minutes, 10 minutes of bad hockey or not-good-enough hockey and teams are beating us.

“I don’t know if that’s maybe because we started out the way we did and teams are always really amped up to play us and they always give us one of their best games,” Alzner continued. “I don’t know if that has something to do with it, or if it’s just completely our fault that we’re not doing it. Obviously we got a bit of a reality check here: Three in a row and terrible in the last 10 games. We’ve got to figure it out — soon.”

The negative traits seem a consistent refrain at this stage — turnovers in all three zones, a failure to outwork opponents and win battles for loose pucks and untimely penalties, all coupled with an inability to count on their offense.

After a strong performance Tuesday in Nashville slipped away due to lapses, Dennis Wideman spoke of learning defensive lessons and taking a page from the Predators and New Jersey Devils. But on Thursday in Winnipeg, the Capitals team that lost to the Jets looked nothing like the club that put forth what was largely a strong effort in its own zone only two days earlier.

Asked about some of the commonalities seen in their recent losses, Brooks Laich said the Capitals must turn their focus to defense.

“We’re certainly not playing very well. We have a lot of work to go, a lot of room to improve, but when you’re struggling you’ve got to strip your game down to the basics,” Laich said. “Start with your defensive play, start with strong defensive games. Little things that matter; blocking shots, playing solid in our D zone, working hard and from that everything else will stem.”

By  |  10:31 AM ET, 11/18/2011

 
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