With the playoff push in full swing, the Washington Capitals are well aware that their play isn’t where it should be right now. And though they’re not ready to panic, they know it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
Head coach Peter Laviolette summed up the current state of the team swiftly after the Capitals‘ 2-1 loss to Philly on Saturday.
“Listen, we have not been good enough. That’s the bottom line,” Laviolette said. “We’re capable of playing better.”
Through 54 games this season, Washington has a 28-17-9 (65 points). In 21 games since the new year, the Capitals are 8-11-2 and have been trading wins and losses, along with good games and bad games along the way. That inconsistency has seen them drop from the top of the Metropolitan Division standings to the first Wild Card position.
Washington has just 28 regular-season games left, and the schedule only gets tougher from this point on. At the same time, the playoff push is getting tenser, and it could perhaps become a bit too close for comfort. Boston sits just one point behind the Capitals for the first WC spot and Columbus is just 10 points back thanks to a recent hot streak. And to make matters worse, Washington has been unable to string together at least three wins since December 2021.
“It’s unacceptable for us… we expect a lot better,” John Carlson said, adding, “I think there’s no panic, but I think we all owe it to each other to go on a run. And I think we know how tight things are and how much things can change quickly. We feel that urgency, but I wouldn’t call it panic.”
When it comes to the main issue, it’s difficult to find one common thread. Some nights, there are slow starts that lead to Washington chasing the game and ultimately, unable to complete a comeback or find a spark.
“We can’t let that happen. When you dig yourself a hole like that, it’s hard to come back,” Carl Hagelin said after the loss to Philly, which saw another poor start lead to a loss.
Claude Giroux, we are not worthy. pic.twitter.com/zr4EUcfHoy
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 26, 2022
Beyond that, the power play has been inconsistent and costly, the penalty kill has been through some struggles (though it has recovered of late) and the goaltending is not where it needs to be. The Capitals also struggle with putting together a full 60 minutes, where they’ll spark at one time and then fall flat at another.
For Hagelin and the Capitals, it all comes back to finding consistency to make a “run” while getting on the same page. However, the clock is ticking, especially down the stretch and with the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline less than a month away.
“We got to start finding our game,” Hagelin said, adding, “We can’t have one good game, one average game, one bad game, one good game. We got to have that consistency. If we do that, we’ll be fine. But we got to find it.”