For much of the Washington Capitals’ season it has been like this: important wins followed, and largely negated, by an equally significant loss. One step forward, one step back and it’s far from hyperbole.
Over the past 15 games, the Capitals have not won consecutive contests. The last time they accomplished the feat was a three-game winning streak that stretched from Jan. 11 to 15.
“You can’t win like that. You can’t be successful. You gotta have those streaks,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “You look at the teams that are doing pretty good, I bet they’ve all had a couple good streaks over five games, we just haven’t been doing that. We talked about it before the game — this is the best time to do it. We find a way to not get it done again. There’s no other word besides being frustrating. We’re working hard, we’re just not getting those goals.”
Roll the aforementioned stretch together with the fact that Washington has won consecutive games on the road only twice this season and it paints a picture as to why it has been such an up-and-down year.
Consecutive road wins occurred once under Coach Dale Hunter on Dec. 7 against Ottawa and Dec. 15 against Winnipeg and once under Bruce Boudreau on Oct. 13 against Pittsburgh and Oct. 20 against Philadelphia. Neither set included games on the same road trip.
Given the Capitals’ place in the Eastern Conference standings (ninth) and that there are only 24 games remaining in the regular season, each contest matters, and the margin for error to reach the playoffs is extremely thin.
That said, players are trying to not focus on the pressure they face to win – although they know it is there.
“I said we need to win those games but you can’t look any further than the next one,” said Brooks Laich, who before this four-game trip said Washington likely needed to win at least three of the games. “It’s a loss but you have to move on. I don’t know what to say right now. I don’t feel a lot more pressure to have to do it. The group wants to win and that’s not going to go away.”
Troy Brouwer, who went through a late-season push to the playoffs with Chicago, echoed the sentiment of not allowing pressure to overwhelm the team.
“The last thing we want to do is put too much pressure on ourselves,” Brouwer said. “We know what’s at stake right now; we know how the season could turn out if this trip doesn’t go well. For us, we want to go into Carolina and have a good atmosphere, a good feeling – not too intense, because that’s when we’ll start making mistakes and that’s when we’ll start gripping our sticks a little tight.”
— The Capitals have reassigned forward Keith Aucoin to the Hershey Bears. With Aucoin's reassignment to the AHL, the Capitals now carry 22 players on their active roster. As the roster stands now, Washington would have room to add roughly $1 million before the trade deadline, according to Capgeek.com.