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After another disappointing preseason result, is it time to worry about the Caps?

After another disappointing preseason result, is it time to worry about the Caps?

If Wednesday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils had a depressingly familiar feel to it, there’s a reason for that.

The Capitals fell 4-1 in their home preseason finale, their fourth loss in five preseason games. In all four of their losses, they have allowed four goals, while scoring only a combined three goals. Overall in the preseason, Washington has been outscored 18-7 with only two five-on-five goals to show for their efforts.

Is it too early to worry about the Caps? Yes. Of course it is. But that doesn't mean there aren't thing they need to very quickly improve.


Through five games, one cannot help but notice how one-sided these games have been and it’s not something the Capitals are happy about.

“Obviously the results of the preseason aren't really something you really take into account,” Braden Holtby said, who allowed four goals on 33 shots to New Jersey. “It's more how we're playing and I don't think we're playing at a good enough level yet.”

“The biggest disappointment is we haven't found our game,” head coach Barry Trotz said following Wednesday’s loss. “Our lineup, being full or not, you'd like to see it closer to where it needs to [be].”
So what has gone wrong?
On Wednesday, the problem was poor defense at the start. The Devils scored all four of their goals in the first period including three power play goals on three power play opportunities.
“Don’t do that again,” John Carlson said when asked what his takeaway from Wednesday’s game was. “I feel like we harp on starts a lot and they mean a lot so we can't put ourselves in that hole and be that sloppy and expect to do well in that game.”
Defense is a concern for the Capitals this season as they have only three true top-four defensemen on their roster. Aaron Ness skated with Carlson on the second pair in a lineup that looked very close to what the opening night roster is believed to look like.
Another issue in the preseason has been on the other end of the ice where the Caps are just not getting enough production. Not only does Washington have only seven goals in five games, just one has come from the team’s presumed top-six. Four of those goals have been scored by Nathan Walker, Devante Smith-Pelly, Alex Chiasson and Tyler Graovac, fringe players who are competing just to make the roster.
“Everybody from our leadership group to our top players, we have to get some production there and they know it too,” Trotz said.
The good news is that all preseason results should be taken with a grain of salt. The Colorado Avalanche, the worst team in the NHL last season, went undefeated in the preseason in 2016 with six wins.
But with only two games remaining in their preseason slate, the Capitals are running out of time to get back on track before the games start to matter.
“You want to obviously find your game as quick as you can,” Holtby said. “That's the goal, obviously. We're using these games as preparation to move into the regular season and obviously the results and the way we've played haven't been what we're expecting. That's not a reason to panic, that's a reason to work harder and push ourselves even mroe and that's what we're going to do.”


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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

How much better would your work environment be if you had a chance to pin a coworker or get them in a chokehold? Probably a lot. That's what the Caps are banking on.

The team visited the FBI Academy on Wednesday in a team building exercise that included raming doors and, of course, hand to hand combat.

Let's break down some of these wrestling matchups.

Braden Holtby appears to be thanking John Carlson for playing 27:33 on Tuesday.

It seems dangerous to pit a goalie against a defenseman. Carlson spends all of his time on the ice trying to protect Holtby. Just how hard was Carlson really trying to take down Holtby?

It's no surprise seeing Tom Wilson enjoying himself with the hand to hand combat. Whoever went up against him (it looks like Jay Beagle) certainly drew the short straw.

And then there's this.

Nicklas Backstrom is having way, way too much fun. Maybe Andre Burakovsky was getting a bit chesty in the locker room after his first NHL fight. Well, it seems Backstrom certainly put him in his place.

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss


There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.


Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”


What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.