Things have not been going well for the Capitals as of late. They have lost eight of their last 11 and five straight games for the first time since October-November 2014. They can’t score and are porous defensively. That’s not a good combination.
As a result, people are despairing. The team has no talent, the coaches have no idea what they’re doing and you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.
In this day and age, we all tend to be prisoners of the moment. Will the Capitals come close to winning the Stanley Cup the way they are playing right now? No, of course not. They look terrible.
B ut let’s not forget, it’s not like last season was without its challenges.
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On Nov. 14 and 16 in 2017, Washington suffered consecutive blowouts at the hands of Nashville and Colorado to drop their record down to 10-9-1. There was talk of whether Barry Trotz would even survive the season. But the Caps rallied.
F rom Feb. 2 on, Braden Holtby suddenly couldn’t stop a beach ball. He wasn’t even the Caps’ starter the first two games of the playoffs. He got back in net in Game 3 and was brilliant the rest of the playoffs.
D id anyone think Washington would win the Stanley Cup after getting blown out against the Predators and Avalanche? Did anyone think they would win when Holtby was struggling to stop anything in February?
Heck, if you’re mad about how the Caps lost Sunday’s game in Chicago, they lost even worse to the Blackhawks last year 7-1 in February. I sure didn’t think I was watching a Cup winner at that point.
Washington is hardly the only team to suffer such a low point in their season. Look at some of the other contenders across the league. The Caps are only one point behind Toronto which has lost four of its last five, Pittsburgh went through a stretch in which it lost nine out of ten in October/November, Nashville lost six straight from Dec. 17 through Dec. 29, San Jose lost five out of six from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 and Vegas started the season 9-12-1 before they finally turned things around. No one thinks those teams are done. So why should we write off the Caps?
Looking at the playoff race, Washington is only one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the last wild-card spot…but five points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo. The season is not lost…yet.
Every team has low points during the season, but it’s January.
There’s still a lot of hockey left to play.
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Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.
- The return of Barry Trotz came at a bad time for Washington. Because of how he has turned around the Islanders and how the Caps have struggled, that has led many to simply dismiss Todd Reirden as a head coach. Here’s what Reirden has had to deal with to start the season: A 20-game suspension (later reduced) to Tom Wilson, a lineup that has not been 100-percent available at any point this season, simultaneous injuries to Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby, a second injury to Holtby and prolonged injuries to Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos. Plus, he’s had to navigate his team coming into a season as the defending champions for the first time in franchise history. The book on Reirden as a head coach is not going to be written based on a January slump. It’s going to be written based on what he does this season as a whole and, even more importantly, on what he does in the playoffs.
- I have seen a few people wonder if the Caps should recall anyone from Hershey, but the simple fact of the matter is that the solution to Washington’s problems is not in the AHL. There are just no difference makers with the Bears right now and adding anyone would be a headache. The Caps have no cap room and two extra forwards already on the roster. To add anyone would mean sending someone back down and exposing them to waivers. Adding Nathan Walker or Shane Gersich to the bottom six is not going to make any difference if Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie can’t score.
- Dmitrij Jaskin needs to stay in the lineup. He can’t finish, but no one can right now. Specifically, among bottom six players, Travis Boyd and Brett Connolly have only one goal in 12 games, Andre Burakovsky has not scored in his last 13, Nic Dowd in his last 16 and Devante Smith-Pelly in his last 23. So really, what offense are you losing by dressing Jaskin? Jaskin, Dowd and Boyd was a very solid line earlier in the season. While Reirden has the line blender out, why not try this one again?
It may be too early to give up on the Caps’ season, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sinking the rankings.
Find out where they land here in this week’s NHL Power Rankings.
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