Washington’s defensive pairings remained the same Tuesday, and Michal Kempny will be unavailable for Wednesday’s game against visiting Toronto. Reirden said he hopes Kempny can return for Friday’s home game against the New York Rangers, but he wants to make sure Kempny is 100 percent first. He has not played since undergoing surgery in April to repair a torn left hamstring.
“We wanted to look at a couple of different things today after re-watching the game last night. I juggled quite a few things last night to try and get a spark,” Reirden said Tuesday. “We were able to go to three lines for a bit to get some energy going and find some different combinations that could work. We are looking to spread it out a little more and be a difficult matchup team.”
While integrating several new additions to the core that won the Stanley Cup in 2018, Washington has struggled with consistency over the first two weeks of this season.
“You can lose hockey games and still play all right,” Backstrom said, “but I think we were playing really poorly when we lost, and that’s just — we just got to change the mentality.”
After ending a three-game losing streak (0-1-2) with a win Saturday at Dallas, the Capitals dug themselves a deep hole against the Avalanche. Panik was unable to convert multiple scoring chances as the Capitals tried to rally.
“It’s different for every player with how they adjust,” Reirden said of Panik, who signed as a free agent in July. “He’s had some really good chances. … [He needs to] not think about systems and get to a comfortable skill-set within our system. That is something that is expected and something you don’t want to teach at Game 60.”
Oshie said the players have been frustrated individually but not with one another, and he believes the team’s focus will improve as the season progresses. Backstrom pointed to the team’s struggles at five-on-five as a probable reason for the lineup shake-up. The Capitals have been outscored 16-11 at five-on-five, giving them 40.7 percent of the goals; they entered Tuesday ranked 26th in the 31-team NHL in that situation. When the Capitals lead by one goal, it has been even worse: In those situations, they have extended their lead just twice while giving up the tying goal a league-worst eight times.
“I just feel like we need to show some more urgency and be more desperate out there,” Backstrom said. “I think it’s focus. You got to make sure you help each other out a little bit better.”
While the Capitals continue to work on their forward lines, a question mark is emerging in goal: Holtby, who is in a contract year, is 1-1-2 with a 4.27 goals against average and an .846 save percentage. Reirden said he still trusts his No. 1 goalie, but rookie Ilya Samsonov could be emerging more quickly than the organization believed he would at the start of the season. The backup has 68 saves on 72 shots through two full games plus his relief appearance Monday.
“I still have plenty of confidence in him,” Reirden said of Holtby. “He’s been through this before. We saw this in the Stanley Cup year, and he ends up taking over and winning the Stanley Cup and being a big part of it.”