For seemingly the entire month of March, the Capitals' defensive was downright dominant.
They were notably excellent in the high-danger areas of the ice as they prevented teams from getting opportunities in the scoring areas, which kept shots to the outside and pressure off their two young netminders. That, in turn, gave way to offensive success on the other end of the ice.
Now, both have fallen off for the Capitals and the results haven’t been pretty.
The Capitals lost to the Bruins 4-2 on Thursday night at Capital One Arena after a poor start due to defensive miscues in their own end. And when they needed to rally late, their even-strength offense simply wasn't able to.
“The games that we have not played well, we've not gotten to the offensive zone,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We're spending too much time playing defense and the chances show up that way as well. And then the period, like the second period tonight and made a decision to do that, to put it behind them, to play in the offensive zone. And then all of a sudden, everything turns around. Shots turnaround, chances turnaround.”
Thursday’s game was the second-straight game the Capitals have not scored at five-on-five — they were shut out by the Islanders on Tuesday. The team’s last five-on-five goal game against the Devils on Sunday, April 4.
And while the shot totals for Thursday’s game don’t look all that poor, they’ve been hurt in key areas of the game.
Against the Bruins, the Capitals were outshot 17-9 in the first period. Even though they ended up with more total shots than the Bruins did (33-32), they know their play hasn’t been consistent enough, both in-game and from game-to-game.
“We didn't score 5-on-5 in the second period, but we had lots of looks and lots of opportunities and those will come with those looks and opportunities,” Laviolette said. “But you've got to get there. Our unwillingness to do it, it's something that we've been talking about for probably six games and so it's got to get cleaner and it's got to get better through there.”
The Capitals made their push in the second period down three goals and with two quick powerplay goals from Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, found themselves back into the game. But the even-strength play wasn’t up to the standard that the Capitals had played at all season long.
It’s been a domino effect, as when the team started playing more defensive hockey — and allowing more chances — the offense has had less time and space to operate.
So while the notable takeaway from players over the last few games has been the need for improvement in their own zone, those issues have had far-reaching effects on the other end of the ice.
“When we’re playing a little bit more simple, you know, advance, advance, advance, we play a lot faster,” defenseman John Carlson said. “We move the puck up the ice a lot faster. When we’re not connecting, pucks are bouncing, whatever it is it doesn’t matter, it slows us down. When you have that kind of flow of the game going in your direction, it seems like good things happen.”