“Obviously, there’s a few things that feel like a mess right now,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “Giving up eight is not a good feeling, so we had a little chat last night and we had a little bit bigger chat this morning. We’re trying to get crystal clear on a few things that need to improve and we’ll try to keep a good attitude, an honest attitude, about where we’re at and where we want to get to and keep working towards it.”
The Capitals have two games left, a back-to-back set against San Jose and Toronto, respectively, before a week-long break for the All-Star Game and bye week. Both the Sharks and the Maple Leafs have more points than the Capitals, who haven’t lost six or seven straight since January of the 2013-14 season, a campaign that ended without a playoff berth. Washington is tied for second in the Metropolitan Division and just three points out of first place, so things aren’t dire yet, but no one wants to start their week off on that sour of a note.
“For the last two years or so ... things haven’t come easy,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “That’s something that can be lost in the fact of winning. Because things weren’t easy last year. We had to grind our way through to get where we were, and that’s going to be what we have to do this year. We’re in one of those little lulls where we’re going to make sure that we come to work with the right mind-set of putting it all out there and getting better and improving. It’s a time of the year where we still have plenty of time left to do the things necessary that we need to do to win.”
To Holtby’s point, the Capitals had a team-wide meeting last March, and that sparked a defensive turnaround en route to a franchise-first Stanley Cup. Coach Todd Reirden said that gathering included some significant changes to the team’s systems, which are still in place. This meeting was just about pointing out where Washington is struggling within that structure.
“Some of the things that we’re doing incorrectly and mistakes we’re making, they’re big ones,” Reirden said. “We’ve got to go through those things as a group, players and coaches, obviously have video to back it up and ways we can get better. ... Right now, we’re going through a situation where we’re correcting some things and then other areas we’re not correcting and then those mistakes seem to be ending up in the back of our net right now."
Said forward Tom Wilson: “It’s not that guys aren’t trying. It’s almost that we’re trying a little bit too hard in certain circumstances. You do something that you’re trying to help and you just got to trust your teammate to do his job and do your job.”