Saturday, as the Maple Leafs piled on goal after goal, Washington appeared largely apathetic, save a brief spark late in the third period when the contest was out of hand.
For the majority of the game, though, players didn’t chase down loose pucks, failed to pick up defensive assignments and passed up shots. On the bench, shoulders drooped and heads lowered between shifts. The Capitals fell to 1-5-1 in their past seven games and 3-7-1 since starting the season 7-0. So far, nothing seems able to pull them out of their tailspin.
“The other games, I think it was one or two areas that we got exposed, that cost us. Tonight it was just an [butt]-kicking every which way,” Mike Knuble said. “Even strength, short-handed, from the goalies to the D to the forwards, four-on-five, five-on-four — [a butt]-kicking.”
By the end, Washington was routed by a Maple Leafs team that was playing without seven regulars, including its No. 1 goaltender, and was on its own 1-4-1 skid entering Saturday night.
It came one day after Coach Bruce Boudreau gave the team the day off to recharge and the team held meetings that left players saying they could rectify the problems that led to the losing streak. When given the chance to back up those words with action, though, the Capitals exhibited the same familiar problems on a greater scale.
“We’re obviously not getting the job done right now. To answer that question I have to talk about certain things that I don’t want to talk about,” Boudreau said when asked what the difference was between the success to start the season and the current slump.
“You just have to work hard. You’ll get out of it. We’ll get out of it. You work hard, and it’s four games. It went from losing in a shootout, to controlling the game until the last 30 seconds, to losing fairly bad, to getting smoked. It feels like the end of the world, but it’s not the end of the world.”
The 56-year-old coach, who is one win away from his 200th NHL victory, is believed to be under intense pressure to help push the Capitals to postseason success. General Manager George McPhee, who typically does not discuss team personnel matters, declined to comment when asked to offer Boudreau a vote of confidence after Saturday’s loss.
Brooks Laich said it is every player’s responsibility to pull out of the skid and that the Capitals need to return to trusting in the team.
“It’s not the team with the best players that always wins, it’s the team that plays best together,” Laich said. “At times tonight we were disconnected, we were on an island a little bit. When we’re successful it’s all about support, short passes and five-man units on the ice.”