Capitals

Capitals

As the horn sounded to signal the end of the game on Saturday, it felt like the Capitals had finally, finally reached a turning point. A 5-2 win over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh would surely be the moment that Washington turned things around. After struggling through the second half of their schedule and a truly awful stretch through February, the Penguins win would be something the Caps could build on.

That momentum could not even carry them through the first period on Monday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Yes, every team in the NHL can beat any other team on any given night, all the same, standard caveats apply. The only thing is that Buffalo wasn't beating anyone lately. The Sabres entered Monday's game with six straight regulation losses. Jack Eichel was on a seven-game point drought. This was a game the Caps needed to win because the loss erases everything the team accomplished on Saturday.

Washington gets to keep the two points it earned in Pittsburgh, but that's not what matters right now. Heck, it doesn't even matter if the Caps drop out of first place in the division. What matters is that his team gets its game in order heading into the playoffs and there is no evidence that they are any closer to that goal than they were prior to the win over the Penguins. That's the issue.

Saturday's win was one of the most complete games the Caps have played this season, but it meant nothing if Washington came out on Monday and continued to struggle and that's exactly what happened. All the questions surrounding this team, all the doubt, all the baggage the Caps took with them into that game in Pittsburgh came right back after Monday's loss.

 

When it came to moving the puck up the ice, Buffalo was able to keep Washington to the perimeters for two periods before the Caps were actually able to build some sustained offensive pressure. The physical play that allowed Washington to dictate the game in Pittsburgh was non-existent in Buffalo. The Caps seemed content to play a lackadaisical, sleepy game and the Sabres were only too happy to oblige. Playing physically can be punishing to both teams and it takes a commitment, but while you can understand a team not mentally ready to make that commitment in January, it is now March and time is running out for Washington to get right before the postseason begins.

With Monday's game in Buffalo followed by Thursday's game in Washington against the Detroit Red Wings, this week set up perfectly for the Caps to build on Saturday's win. It became evident in the first period on Monday that was not going to happen. And so, we are back where we were before the Pittsburgh game, with lots of questions about an ultra-talented Capitals team that just cannot seem to get its game together.

Saturday's game could have been a turning point for this team. After losing to one of the worst teams in the NHL on Monday, however, now it's back to the drawing board.

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