Things have not been good for the Capitals of late. Now 10 games into 2022, Washington is just 3-5-2 during that stretch. On Dec. 31, 2021, the Caps were tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the most points in the NHL. As of Wednesday, Washington sits in a wild card spot as the fourth-place team in the Metropolitan Division.
Frustration after the team's 1-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, their seventh loss in 10 games, was evident.
"We obviously have to figure that out, we have to start stringing some wins together," Conor Sheary said. "It’s a long season, it’s 80 games, you’re going to have lulls in your play and wins and losses. I think we’re a team that can get hot, we’re a team that can win seven, eight straight in a row. We just got to get that confidence back, we’ve got to start scoring goals, getting secondary scoring, our power play has gotta get going. When all those things click we’re a dangerous team. It seems right now it’s not going that way."
"We've come out and we've generated a lot of good chances," Tom Wilson said. "They just haven't gone in. You want to say don't get frustrated, you want to say stick with it. If we keep generating chances, analytics, whatever, they're going to go in. But as hockey players, we don't look too much at that. We just want to score. We want to put the puck in the net and we've got to do a little bit more of that, I guess just that final killer instinct to make it happen."
But even in the midst of a significant slump, the Caps are not panicking just yet.
"We're not hitting the panic button," Wilson said. "We're not like, 'oh this is the end.' We're still a good hockey team. We still got a lot of good pieces. We're still in a really good spot in the standings."
The fact that play has deteriorated for Washington in January is inarguable. Washington entered the month scoring 3.45 goals per game, allowing 2.55 goals per game, scoring at 15.2% on the power play and killing off penalties at 82.6%.
Since Jan. 1, the Caps are scoring 2.30 goals per game, allowing 3.20 goals per game, scoring at 10.7% on the power play and is killing off penalties at just 75.0%.
Those, however, are just the results and, while that will ultimately how they will be judged, the team does not believe it has been playing all that poorly overall.
"I think our guys, they’re working, they’re competing, and it will come," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "Defensively for the last two games we haven’t given up hardly anything and we’re finding ourselves winning the game in overtime or losing 1-0 and I think it’s easy to get frustrating. We focus more on the process and how we’re playing the game and, for me, there’s things that we’re doing that I think will lead to success."
An 82-game season allows for good teams to overcome slumps like this one and since there remains confidence in their level of play, the Caps remain confident that they can play their way out of it.
At some point, however, good chances have to lead to more goals, good defense has to allow to fewer goals for the opposition and good play has to lead to wins and points. When it doesn't, that's when patience turns to frustration and frustration turns to panic.
The Caps aren't there just yet, but at some point, this team needs to see results.
"We've got to turn it around," Wilson said. "We've got to find our consistency. ... I'm not going to say everyone in there is like concerned and panicking and all that. We're going to address it. We've got to look at it in the face, it's a reality and we've got to band together and turn it around."
“Everybody hates losing," Laviolette said. "Nobody likes the scoreboard and the way it looks right now, so that’s what’s lousy about it. But I think if the guys continue to work and do the right things, eventually they’ll get rewarded."