COLUMBUS – Thirteen days ago the Capitals played one of their worst games of the year, falling 5-1 to the Blue Jackets in what was a sloppy and ill-focused performance.
“It was a colossal train wreck. Everything went wrong, we couldn’t do anything right,” Jason Chimera said. “But we have to learn from it.”
To a man, the Capitals have admitted that they weren’t mentally prepared to face Columbus on Jan. 17, that they didn’t take the Metropolitan Division foe as seriously as they should have. Thursday night, as Washington visits Nationwide Arena once more, the team must make sure those mistakes don’t happen again.
Heading into this fourth and final meeting of the regular season, the Blue Jackets sit tied in points with Washington (56) but are ahead in the standings because they have more regulation and overtime wins.
Columbus has lost three straight, but that too could be a potential trap for the Capitals. The Blue Jackets lost each of their last two games by one goal and are still the hard-working team that outhustled Washington in the middle of the month.
“They just buzzed us until we had nothing left,” Karl Alzner said. “It’s understanding how they play and realizing that they’re going to come hard and even if they don’t have those standout guys necessarily they just work you to the ground. I think we learned how to play against them now and we’re hoping we don’t see that same [Capitals’] team that was here last time.”
For Coach Adam Oates the lessons in that ugly loss start with missed opportunities. The Capitals had a handful of quality scoring chances in the first period of that game, including clean looks by Troy Brouwer and Dmitry Orlov, that Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside. Even if the defending Vezina Trophy winner has another strong night, Oates wants to make sure the Capitals don’t deviate from their game plan in an attempt to create offense.
“Got a good goalie over there, he stoned us and we can’t get out of our game,” Oates said. “If we score goals, great. If we don’t we’ve got to be prepared to grind it out. They’re a grinding team, they’ve had a lot of success lately so they’re playing with a lot of confidence and we’ve got to be ready to match that.”