Before they closed out the season with a 1-0 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, the Capitals already had four days to ponder the shortcomings of this year’s team.
They’ll have many more with the long offseason ahead, but here were some of the players’ comments following the final game of the year on why this group, which wound up three points shy of the final two Eastern Conference teams that reached the postseason.
Braden Holtby cited the Capitals’ inconsistent and often subpar play at even strength.
“We discussed it later. Obviously it was a little too late in the season, but five on five has a lot to do with support and not so much individuals. To be a great five-on-five team you have to support each other all over the ice,” Holtby said. “It’s the guys away from the puck that make you successful when it’s five on five, and at times we weren’t very good at that. But we realize that now, and we know we have to get better and we will next year.”
Troy Brouwer discussed the inability to get on a roll and explained that even though they never found a groove, the Capitals didn’t see a need for significant in-season changes. The longest winning streak Washington managed this season was a four-game stretch three times, including one that spanned the Olympic break and one that ran from games 78 to 81.
“There were streaks in there where we felt we were playing good, so it wasn’t necessary to have player meetings. Oatesy’s very – he believes in his systems, the players believe in his systems. So we didn’t really need to drastically change a system, the identity of our team or how we play,” Brouwer said. “We would have liked to been able to pull out of those streaks a little bit better. At times we were a little down on ourselves, I’d say just kind of waiting for something to happen rather than going out and making something happen. That’s when those streaks started to pile up.”
Eric Fehr also shared that sentiment and said the players needed to make the necessary tweaks in order to be successful.
“It’s our job as professionals to watch we are doing on the ice, to watch our video and to make adjustments, make changes,” Fehr said. “Obviously the coaches are there to help us, but we have got to do our best to bring our best game every night. It’s on the players to get that done.”
Asked whether he had done everything he could to help the Capitals reach the playoffs, even Alex Ovechkin cited his own plus-minus rating.
“If you look at my minus it’s probably not what everybody wants to see, myself and my teammates, but it is what it is,” Ovechkin said. “Five guys out there and you can see only couple guys have a plus on our team. That’s what we have to work on next year, and I’m capable to bounce back.”
More to come from breakdown day Monday.