The new face behind the Washington Capitals bench is Dale Hunter, who replaced Bruce Boudreau this week as head coach. (Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

What’s going on with the Washington Capitals?

The Caps started the National Hockey League season with seven straight wins. They were playing so well that I asked my neighbors, Joe and B.J., who are huge Capitals fans, “Are they going to win all their games this season?”

No! Since their red-hot start, the Caps have won only five of their last 15 games. On Monday, the team fired Coach Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with former Capitals player Dale Hunter. (The Caps lost their first game with Hunter as the coach, but they have another chance tonight when they play their arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.)

So what has happened? I thought this was the year the oh-so-talented Caps had a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

First, the Caps team defense has fallen apart. They are letting in more goals per game than any team in the NHL except one. That’s terrible.

Coach Hunter speaks with Alex Ovechkin. The team’s stars have not been playing up to expectations (Rob Carr/GETTY IMAGES)

Another big problem is that some of the team’s stars — Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin — are not playing like stars. Ovechkin, who averaged almost 54 goals during his first five seasons, has only eight goals so far this year. At that pace, he will barely net 30 goals. Semin has played so poorly that Coach Boudreau benched him, even though Semin was healthy enough to play.

When players are as terrific and talented as Ovechkin and Semin, they have to play like stars. Being an average player is not enough.

Kids understand that. Let’s say you’re super smart at math. You are one of those lucky kids who can do the problems in your head. Your parents and teachers are going to expect you to get an A in math every time. They are not going to let you slip and bring home a B or a C, even though grades like that might be okay for the kids in class who try hard but struggle with math.

It might not seem fair, but that’s the way it is. A lot is expected from students who have talent.

It’s the same way with Ovechkin and Semin. They are A-level players who are getting C’s. Or worse. Some people think Ovechkin and Semin may not be playing well because they didn’t like Boudreau. That sounds like that tired excuse kids use when they say they don’t like the teacher.

Now the Caps have a new coach. So Ovechkin and Semin can’t blame their poor play on the coach anymore. They will have to start playing like stars again. Otherwise, new coach or not, the Capitals will be in big trouble.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for the KidsPost. He is also the author 17 sports books for kids. His latest is “Quarterback Season.”