If Wednesday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils had a depressingly familiar feel to it, there’s a reason for that.
The Capitals fell 4-1 in their home preseason finale, their fourth loss in five preseason games. In all four of their losses, they have allowed four goals, while scoring only a combined three goals. Overall in the preseason, Washington has been outscored 18-7 with only two five-on-five goals to show for their efforts.
Is it too early to worry about the Caps? Yes. Of course it is. But that doesn't mean there aren't thing they need to very quickly improve.
Through five games, one cannot help but notice how one-sided these games have been and it’s not something the Capitals are happy about.
“Obviously the results of the preseason aren't really something you really take into account,” Braden Holtby said, who allowed four goals on 33 shots to New Jersey. “It's more how we're playing and I don't think we're playing at a good enough level yet.”
“The biggest disappointment is we haven't found our game,” head coach Barry Trotz said following Wednesday’s loss. “Our lineup, being full or not, you'd like to see it closer to where it needs to [be].”
So what has gone wrong?
On Wednesday, the problem was poor defense at the start. The Devils scored all four of their goals in the first period including three power play goals on three power play opportunities.
“Don’t do that again,” John Carlson said when asked what his takeaway from Wednesday’s game was. “I feel like we harp on starts a lot and they mean a lot so we can't put ourselves in that hole and be that sloppy and expect to do well in that game.”
Defense is a concern for the Capitals this season as they have only three true top-four defensemen on their roster. Aaron Ness skated with Carlson on the second pair in a lineup that looked very close to what the opening night roster is believed to look like.
Another issue in the preseason has been on the other end of the ice where the Caps are just not getting enough production. Not only does Washington have only seven goals in five games, just one has come from the team’s presumed top-six. Four of those goals have been scored by Nathan Walker, Devante Smith-Pelly, Alex Chiasson and Tyler Graovac, fringe players who are competing just to make the roster.
“Everybody from our leadership group to our top players, we have to get some production there and they know it too,” Trotz said.
The good news is that all preseason results should be taken with a grain of salt. The Colorado Avalanche, the worst team in the NHL last season, went undefeated in the preseason in 2016 with six wins.
But with only two games remaining in their preseason slate, the Capitals are running out of time to get back on track before the games start to matter.
“You want to obviously find your game as quick as you can,” Holtby said. “That's the goal, obviously. We're using these games as preparation to move into the regular season and obviously the results and the way we've played haven't been what we're expecting. That's not a reason to panic, that's a reason to work harder and push ourselves even mroe and that's what we're going to do.”
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