It’s getting hard to figure out just who the Capitals are.
After a seven-game losing streak, Washington returned from the All-Star break and rebounded nicely. In a six-game homestand, Washington went 4-1-1 to get back on track. Then they started a six-game road swing with an absolutely horrendous 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They followed that up with a blowout win over one of the top teams in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks. Rather than build on that momentum, however, the Caps fell apart in Anaheim and allowed five goals to a bad Ducks team in a 5-2 loss.
About the only thing we know for sure about this team at this point in the season is that they are inconsistent.
The timing for Washington’s continued inconsistencies is not ideal. The trade deadline is just one week away and now is the time when a general manager needs to know exactly who his team is so he can assess what areas he needs to improve before the deadline.
And let’s not forget Washington is also in a tight playoff race with Columbus, Pittsburgh and Carolina all hot on the Caps’ heels.
So just who are the Caps? Are they the team that started 24-10-3 or the one that lost seven straight? Are they the team that blew out the Sharks in San Jose or the one that laid an egg against the Ducks?
Washington certainly has not made Brian MacLellan’s job of evaluating the team before the deadline very easy.
Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.
The Caps have taken the second-most minor penalties in the league. The leader? Tampa Bay. So why are the penalties such a story line for Washington and not the Lightning? Because Tampa Bay has the second-best penalty kill in the NHL. Taking that many penalties is not good, but the issue is compounded by the fact that the Caps’ penalty kill is killing off only 78.1-percent of the penalties they face.
The neutral zone is one of the keys to the Caps’ success. That was evident in the game against San Jose and one of the biggest reasons for their success in the playoffs. When they control the neutral zone and don’t let opposing offenses have clean breakouts, they are a tough team to beat. When they don’t control the neutral zone then teams like Anaheim, the worst offensive team in the NHL, manages 39 shots on goal and five goals.
What is going on with the defensive breakdowns? Anaheim’s second goal on Sunday was one of the worst defensive breakdowns you will see in the NHL. That shouldn’t happen. A lot of them are coming from bad line changes. These are fixable mistakes, but ones you do not expect to see in February.
On a happier note, Jakub Vrana looks like he has turned a corner. He has been phenomenal of late and is someone Caps fans should be very excited about. Not only is he talented, but he seems to have the right attitude and really takes it on himself to improve his game.
The Caps are 1-2-0 to start their six-game road trip and have some work to do to make sure the road swing is a successful one. They also have some work to do in the NHL Power Rankings. Check out this week’s rankings here.
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