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With playoffs looming, the Caps aren’t ‘fighting for enough inches’

Barry Trotz is trying to keep things in perspective. Even after his Capitals surrendered the first goal for the fifth straight time in Saturday’s 5-2 loss in San Jose, the veteran head coach can see the positives.

“We’d like to play with the lead,” Trotz told the Washington Post. “I think we’re a better team with a lead. We haven’t had it for a while, so we’ve been chasing the game the whole time. [But] to be 2-2-1 against the quality of opponents that we’ve played in the last five games, that’s not bad.”

He’s right -- it’s “not bad.” Teams have traveled to California and fared much worse than 1-1-1 against the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks.

But considering the expectations, and with the playoffs less than a month away, Washington hockey fans are naturally an anxious bunch.

And the fact is, the Caps haven’t been their dominant selves lately. The last time they won by more than a single goal was almost a month ago, a 3-1 home victory over the Kings on Feb. 16. The last time they won by more than two goals was all the way back on Jan. 19, a 6-3 victory in Columbus.

Call it nitpicking if you want, but when a team is 49-14-5 and holds a 12-point lead in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, there won’t be any massive deficiencies to point out. With no glaring weaknesses, there are only potential chinks in the armor.

Trotz pointed out another potential factor for the Caps as they close out the regular season.

“Everybody we’re playing is in playoff mode,” he told CSN Washington. “They’re fighting for playoff position and they’re marking us and they’re using us as a little bit of a yardstick based on our record and every game is hard. You’ve got to fight for inches and right now we’ve got some guys, they’re playing hard but we’re not fighting for enough inches.

“You’re going to have to fight for the inches in the playoffs and you’ve got to prepare that way for the playoffs.”

Washington returns home to face Carolina on Tuesday.

Related: The Caps haven’t been ‘great starters,’ and they aim to fix that