After getting out to a 6-0-3 start to the 2021 season, the Capitals have since stumbled into three straight regulation losses. Washington, forced to play without several stars due to COVID-19 protocol violations and contact tracing, managed to stay afloat despite the absences — for a time.
Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Samsonov, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov were added to the COVID-19 list first. Ovechkin and Orlov returned after missing four games, then Jakub Vrana was added. Lars Eller, Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz have all missed at least one game with various injuries.
The Capitals managed to get out to a fast start but ultimately the lack of personnel caught up to them.
“I don’t want to make an excuse but I want to make an explanation that when you’re missing that many guys — quality guys, top players — in net, on defense, on forwards, you can have guys step in and do a really good job for a certain amount of time but after a while it’s probably gonna show when half your lineup is out,” Eller told 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Tuesday morning. “It’s hard to expect or demand more from guys than what they’re doing. Everybody is trying their best…you’re asking a lot of guys to do a lot more than they’re used to.”
Washington’s next three games have all been postponed due to evolving COVID-19 situations with the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres. That should give the Capitals time to get most of their players back before returning to the ice Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Download and subscribe to the Capitals Talk podcast“In my whole career, I can’t remember a time where my team has been down with that many guys out at the same time,” Eller said. “We were just counting bodies out every day. Very unusual but I think the team has done pretty well considering all the guys that have been out…It’s hard to prepare for that.
“For a while, we were doing great and we were finding ways to win games but lately we just haven’t been able to do enough,” Eller said. “Hopefully we’re pissed off enough [next game] that we can pull off a win and hopefully we’ll start to see some of our injured bodies get back into the lineup soon.”
For more interviews, tune into the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington weekdays from 6-10 a.m.