In each of the past three games, the Capitals have mustered just one goal. Go back a little further and Washington has scored just one goal in nine out of the past 16 games dating back to Nov. 15 against the Nashville Predators.
The Capitals have undergone a coaching and system change since that loss to Nashville, but some of the mistakes that plagued the team a month ago continue to arise. From sloppy defensive play to a failure to forecheck and crash the net to generate multiple chances when they gain the offensive zone.
Following the 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche Saturday, Karl Alzner said that he believed part of the Capitals’ struggles stemmed from reverting back to careless errors.
“We went back to making the dumb little mistakes that we weren’t doing the last game [against Winnipeg] at least,” Alzner said. “I think a lot of times we were doing things on our own. And that’s what we were doing when we were losing all our games and we got back to it again tonight.”
Washington’s inability to finish offensive chances is a growing concern.
Against Colorado, the power play lacked punch against a penalty kill that entered the game ranked 26th in the league. At even strength, the offensive pressure came in random spurts, rarely with second-chance opportunities. One shot that finds its way out of the zone and results in 30 seconds trapped in the defensive end does not make for many prime scoring chances.
The power play had its most productive outburst in recent memory in a 4-2 win over Toronto on Dec. 9, but in the three games since that night the Capitals have gone 0-for-7 on the man-advantage. If the power play isn’t going to chip in, that leaves even strength production to pick up most of the slack but with only one even strength goal per game over that same span, it’s far from reliable either.
Part of the problem, Alex Ovechkin said is the lack of players crashing the net in search of second- and third-chance opportunities.
“If we have one shot, we don’t find the rebound, we don’t have second guy who goes to the net and tries to find the rebound. It’s the kind of game when you have to score some dirty goals like from rebound or from a tip,” said Ovechkin, who finished with seven shots in 22:34 of ice time. “I don’t think we play bad [Saturday], I think we play well but unfortunately we lose the game.”
When asked if the lack of 5 on 5 production is a concern, Coach Dale Hunter downplayed the issue and said he believes that the Capitals are getting chances.
In the third period against Colorado, however, those chances were infrequent at best and part of it was due to a large discrepancy in faceoff success. The Avalanche won 63 percent of the draws Saturday night, and with lost faceoffs Washington either missed an opportunity to try to set up offensively or clear the puck cleanly out of its own end.
“They’re pretty good [on faceoffs],” Hunter said of the Avalanche, who have a 51.4 percent success rate on faceoffs overall this year. “The end of the game we couldn’t get the shot off because we lost the draws all the time – it’s going to take practice again [to improve].”