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Capitals Postgame: Goal-less Ovechkin; Who Takes Blame On Defense?



Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

The first three games of the Spencer Carbery era have been less than ideal for the Washington Capitals, who fell to the Ottawa Senators, 6-1, on Wednesday. There were a handful of takeaways as the Capitals now sit tied for last place in the Metro Division.

Who Is To Blame On Defense?

Unlike Monday’s victory over Calgary, Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper did not face an onslaught of shots over the game’s opening minutes. Like Monday’s game however, two first period goals had the Capitals working from behind early once again.

By night’s end, the Capitals had surrendered six goals — the highest total through the season’s first three games.

You could pin the blame on Kuemper, or you could pin the blame on the team’s defensive unit, and depending on the opposing score it would be an apt characterization.

Some, like the second goal from Senators forward Josh Norris, only developed from a complete Capitals breakdown:

“Now when we make a mistake, it’s in the back of the net,” head coach Spencer Carbery said postgame.

Through the first three games of the season, only one Metro Division team has allowed more goals: the Carolina Hurricanes, who also lead the division in goals scored. The Capitals obviously have not had the same offensive success, which has led to the team dropping two of the first three games.

It should be expected that the team is still trying to find itself through the first few games, but the longer it takes them to do so the tougher it will be to climb into playoff contention.

Carlson’s Goal More Than Just A Score

While the season is still in its infancy, little has gone right for the Capitals thus far. Perhaps the only positive to come out of Wednesday’s shellacking was a goal from John Carlson — only his third since last November.

Carlson, 33, missed more than half of last season with a fractured skull. And as the team’s best offensive defenseman, his absence was surely felt.

It’s no secret that the Capitals are going to see through this era of the franchise, making it an increasingly harder challenge each year as Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom and others near the twilight of their careers.

And with the aging core, if any of them aren’t on the ice — like was the case for much of last season — things can and will implode for the Capitals.

But Carlson’s goal was a signal, a sign that not only is he back, but he’s ready to contribute. And now the coaching staff is tasked with getting everybody on the same page.

Ovechkin Scoreless Through Three Games

The best goal-scorer in a generation is, through three games, scoreless.

Alex Ovechkin isn’t entirely to blame for the Capitals’ offensive woes. After all, he did assist on the team’s lone goal Wednesday.

But through three games, the Capitals have only scored four goals — the second-lowest total league-wide. And Ovechkin’s lack of scoring has only highlighted the team’s offensive flaws.

Across the past two games, Ovechkin failed to tally a single shot on goal. He tallied four in the season-opener against Pittsburgh, when the Capitals were shutout.

On paper, you could say that Ovechkin is more focused on creating for others than himself. Maybe he’s facing defenses that are more appropriately tailored to neutralizing his game. There’s still plenty of work to be done regardless of not only returning the Capitals to the playoffs, but in chasing down the scoring record.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.