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State Of The Capitals: With Frustration Building, What Happens Next?

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Washington Capitals

The first period of Sunday’s game pretty much summed up where the Washington Capitals currently stand. The team is 7-8-2, and while there are several key players on the shelf, the Capitals don’t want to make excuses. Their effort on the ice has been lacking in several categories, while the club is also experiencing constant inconsistency and can’t seem to put together a full 60 minutes.

After Washington went down 4-0 after a disastrous first period that set the tone for a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, several of you took to Twitter to voice the building frustration and anger with the way things were going after 20 minutes. The Capitals had the same sentiment after the game, as Lars Eller didn’t mince words.

“We were horseshit, flat out,” Eller said of the club’s start, adding, “We have to be very aware of that, where we find ourselves in the standings right now. And our mentality, our play, our attitude out there has got to reflect that we are fighting for our lives. And today we were casual, almost a little bit arrogant. It was tough to watch, tough to be a part of.”

So, what will be next for the club? Well, it could go either way.

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Thanksgiving is a critical time for the playoff race. We start to see where teams are and how good the competition is. While injuries certainly factor into things for Washington, the club should still be doing better than it is. The goaltending is great so far, as Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren have done everything they can to keep the Capitals in each game. The play in front of them has not been ideal, as the blue line isn’t really clicking all too well either. However, the biggest problem right now is on the forward lines.

Chemistry is just not there right now. With the exception of Friday’s dominant 5-1 win, there’s really no chemistry at even strength. Washington’s lines don’t have a lot of jam throughout the game and can’t really generate a lot of pressure or high-quality chances. There’s also been a lack of sustained zone time. Then, of course, the power play, which had heated up for a stretch, has taken a nosedive. It is 0-for-16 over its last three games, and on Sunday, there were six chances to get back into the game and convert. The Capitals didn’t seize the opportunity.

This brings us back to what the next steps are. First off, the team needs to find some kind of spark at even strength. It’s a tight-knit room, but there’s just no chemistry with the current line combinations. It’s time to mix things up and move pieces around rather than keeping the same players in the same spots. There’s nothing to lose risking it.

That’s obviously easier said than done with regard to the injuries and lack of pieces to really mesh together. Plus, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who was brought in to help with the lack of forwards, has two games left of a three-game suspension.

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So, next on the list: the trade market. Per reports, general manager Brian MacLellan got a call from the Montreal Canadiens but wasn’t ready to outsource to replace Connor Brown following his injury. However, now be the time as things just aren’t clicking. And in the end, it may just be a new name that brings the spark the team is looking for.

That brings us to the trade deadline. If the team’s out of it or if things are looking up, general manager Brian MacLellan’s likely not going to make the Capitals active sellers and go crazy. However, something’s got to give, and there need to be new forwards brought in if things continue going the way they’re going. Whether that’s adding another forward or something else, there needs to be some kind of spark.

Then, of course, there needs to be a better mentality for games. As Eller mentioned, the team wasn’t playing like one that is “fighting for our lives.” From the get-go on Sunday, it didn’t look like Washington was really ready to play.

If Washington’s still in the thick of the race and not too far out of playoff position, but is still struggling and seeing the same issues, then maybe it’s time to consider a coaching change. I’m not sure how likely this is; management has been happy with head coach Peter Laviolette and considering all the injuries and other circumstances, he’s managed to do well with his group. However, if things get better, or if the team’s really out of it, I doubt we see a coaching change this season, as Laviolette’s in the final year of his contract anyway.

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Overall, it’s hard to say where things go from here. While it was one bad game out of the 82 played this season, this pattern’s been going for quite some time, and Sunday’s game shined a bigger light on the problem.

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