You can line up the excuses any way you want: there’s a new coach, they have a new system, there was no training camp, some guys didn’t play during the lockout, blah, blah, blah.
At 1-5-1, you are what your record says you are: a bad hockey team.
Washington Capitals, look in the mirror, that is what you are right now after dropping two games in Ontario this week with very poor third period efforts.
Effort, that is a good word there. In hockey it is the most important thing you need to be successful. Too many Capitals players aren’t consistently bringing an honest effort.
You can start with the captain, Alexander Ovechkin, and work your way through a number of other players with Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson next on the list. Those three guys all make a lot of coin and are on long term contracts. Maybe the fact that they lead in the poor effort department is just a coincidence, eh?!
In addition, when you go 10 minutes without a shot on net like the Caps did to start the 3rd period on Thursday, there is no other way to characterize that stat than “lack of effort.” It was pitiful to watch, and it came against a Leafs team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2004-05 lockout.
Hockey IQ. Another important facet to winning at the NHL level. The Caps continue to display a low hockey IQ taking too many penalties and making too many mental miscues. Carlson’s ill timed pinch late in period two of Tuesday’s game in Ottawa started the downward spiral that night. On Thursday, with Washington trying to tie the game late, Ovechkin carried the puck and circled the rink nearly two times before forcing a terrible pass into the middle of the ice. An easy clear was made by Toronto and it was game over. Hockey is a team game and the captain still is playing, at times, like he is going 1 against 5.
At this point, I am not sure what Coach Adam Oates can do other than benching Ovechkin to send a message. The team does not look unified at all like it did during that great playoff run last spring. When things are going bad, you need leaders to step up and right the ship. Right now all I see from the captain are prolonged periods of non skating (see the Leafs tying goal where an orange road cone could have played better defense than Ovechkin) with short bursts of individual play. That is no way to lead a hockey team. The coach, GM, and owner should be livid with Ovechkin right now. He is getting paid a lot of money to produce and lead this hockey team. He’s doing none of that through seven games, which becomes magnified in a short 48 game season.
As for McPhee, I would have to think he is redefining his pre-season assessment of this team. There are only three legitimate top six forwards on the club and only one of them, Mike Ribeiro, is playing up to his potential. I guess it is no coincidence that #9 is a free agent after this season? Given the long term deals he is pretty much stuck with in Oveckhin and Backstrom, there is not a lot he can do. But he has to try to do something to shake this team out of its funk because they are showing no signs of turning this bad start around with the lack of on ice cohesion.
It is a sad state of affairs right now and until the Caps find a way to rachet up their compete level, play smarter hockey, and work as a team, they will continue to be what they are currently: a bad hockey team.