Though the regular season is still days away, the Washington Capitals aren’t starting the year off as expected.
With a 1-4-0 record in the preseason so far, capped off by a disappointing 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, the team understands that while it is still early, they need to start finding their game.
“Obviously the results of the preseason aren’t something that you can really take into account,” starting goaltender Braden Holtby said. “It’s more how we’re playing and the goodness level, but at the same time, it’s not something you can really judge until we get our team together, get lines set up, get that chemistry going… as long as we keep working at it, don’t get frustrated and expect more out of ourselves, we’ll turn it around.”
Recovering From a New Jersey Loss
Nico Hischier had three points in the opening period of the Capitals’ loss to New Jersey, and, following three Devils power play goals and a Jimmy Hayes tally in a span of about 14 minutes, Washington fell into an early 4-0 hole.
The Devils scored on all three of their power play opportunities in the first frame, and though Tyler Graovac was one of the best players of the night, with a goal and plus-1 rating, he took responsibility as a member of the Capitals’ special teams unit.
“You let two or three PK goals in and you’re on the PK, you have to take responsibility for it and make the proper adjustments,” Graovac said. “For me, I want to have that opportunity and that responsibility this year. It’s just gonna be adjustments, it’s still early, but we definitely have to figure it out before we move forward.”
John Carlson also emphasized the importance of starting off on the right foot and had a simple message for the team following the defeat: “Don’t do that again. I mean… we can’t put ourselves in that hole and be that sloppy and expect to do well in that game. It’s all stuff we talk about all the time. Certainly, you look for a better start.”
Head coach Barry Trotz was also displeased with the team’s lack of offence, especially considering the fact that some of the big-name players in the lineup couldn’t create chances.
“We weren’t able to execute or capitalize on our opportunities on the power play,” Trotz said. “I didn’t like our first. I haven’t liked our first at home here. We’ve lacked a little bit of intensity and a little bit of energy and teams have come in and teams have jumped on us and we’re taking too many penalties, especially in the first.”
The difficult part of the Capitals’ Wednesday loss was the fact that they had most of their starting lineup playing – with the exception of prospects Graovac, Travis Boyd, Aaron Ness and Madison Bowey – and couldn’t skate away with a win against a Devils team that had a fair number of prospects playing alongside a few stars.
According to Trotz, this is still the preseason and the team doesn’t have a full idea of what their opening night lineup is but the loss still stings.
“The biggest disappointment is we haven’t found our game and our lineup, being full or not, we would like to see a culture,” Trotz said. “I do have a lot a lot of faith in the group in terms of the guys we have in our locker room… a lot of passes are being missed, some guys aren’t sharp, we’re putting a lot of pucks into space, off the glass, we should be more of a tape-to-tape team, and we’re not there.”
Despite the fact that the team is nearing the regular season, and is close to seeing what players will start the year with the team, Holtby isn’t concerned moving forward: “The results and the way we’ve played haven’t been what we expected. But it’s not a reason to panic. It’s a reason to work harder and push ourselves even more.”
The Caps made more cuts on Thursday, sending forward Travis Boyd, defensemen Tyler Lewington and Jonas Siegenthaler and goaltender Pheonix Copley to Hershey. But as they look to move past their loss, they hope to bounce back and show what they are capable of.
“We gotta pick it up and do the things we know how to do,” Carlson said. “We are more than capable of doing that, so there are no excuses.”
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.