Washington Capitals hurt by scoring slump during losing streak
Friday, December 10, 2010; 11:58 PM
The Washington Capitals have endured losing streaks before, but what sets the current four-game skid apart is the team's uncharacteristic inability to score. Over the past 11 games, the Capitals are 4-7, and in five of those losses, they've failed to post more than one goal.
"There's only one way to score more goals, and that's work harder," Coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday. "After a game, [when] you just undress and just go home and you've got no bumps and bruises, then you know you haven't really been involved in the game."
The latest setback by way of an out-of-sync offense came Thursday night, when the Florida Panthers handed Washington a 3-0 defeat, its third shutout loss since Nov. 19. With the exception of four consecutive wins during this 11-game stretch, the Capitals, who host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, simply haven't been producing.
The last time Washington struggled to find a consistent scoring touch over a stretch of several games was this past April, in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals scored just three goals in the final three games and mustered just five goals on 149 shots in the four losses during that seven-game series.
After Thursday's loss to Florida, Boudreau singled out the team's elite players: captain Alex Ovechkin, who has two goals in the past 11 games; Alexander Semin, who has gone scoreless in nine out of 11; Mike Green, who has one point in the last 10 games and hasn't scored since Nov. 14; Nicklas Backstrom, who has five goals in 11 games but none in this four-game slide; Mike Knuble, who has two goals in his last 11 appearances; and Brooks Laich, who has two goals in his past 15 contests.
While the usual suspects aren't scoring, neither are some of Washington's top secondary options for contributions. Eric Fehr has one goal in his past 15 games, while Jason Chimera has one in 18. Boyd Gordon is the only player among the usual fourth-line rotation who has scored in the past nine games.
"It's not all Ovi, Semin, Brooks and those guys who are counted to score goals; [secondary scorers have] got to score goals, too, and we're not doing the job either," Chimera said. "For whatever reason, we're squeezing our sticks a little tighter. . . . We should score goals for them and help them out. We're not doing our job either."
Part of the team's struggles, Ovechkin said, can be attributed to missed power-play chances. In the past four games, Washington has gone 2 for 19 (10.5 percent) with the man-advantage.
"We have this opportunity to play on power play almost whole two minutes [against Florida] and we didn't use it," Ovechkin said. "It starts with me, Backie, Greenie, Brooksie, Knubs, Sasha; it's everybody. It's not about one guy; everybody have to play better, especially on the power play."
Entering Friday's games, the Capitals still had the third-best record both in the Eastern Conference and in the league with 39 points. Despite the losing streak, they are far from believing they can't work past the ineffective offense that's been too commonplace in the past three weeks.
"It doesn't matter if we're winning by one goal or not; it's about winning and getting two points," Green said. "We'll find a way to start scoring goals again. That's something that at least we know we can achieve."
Capitals notes: The Capitals on Friday recalled defenseman Brian Fahey from the minor league Hershey Bears, which may mean that one of the blueliners battling the flu is unable to play Saturday. John Carlson and Mike Green are both under the weather, Boudreau said, along with Laich, Backstrom, Semin, Gordon and a few staff members.