ARLINGTON, V.A. — Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson is aware of the problems plaguing his team of late. It has led to a stretch of inconsistency that he has rarely seen over his 13-year tenure in D.C.
Since the new year, Washington has been playing what head coach Peter Laviolette called “.500 hockey” on Monday. The team is 4-6-0 in its last 10 games and has been trading wins and losses while struggling to find consistency. Still, despite the rough times, which recently led to a 4-1 loss on home ice to the Ottawa Senators, Carlson insisted that the team isn’t ready to panic.
“I don’t think there’s much concern, I think there’s obviously some frustration,” Carlson explained. “I think there’s a lot of areas of improvement. But no one in there, I don’t think, is oblivious to what’s going on, to where we’re coming up short, to where we should be doing better. Definitely unhappy and trying to work our way through. But I don’t think we’re worried or panicked that those are the results that we’ve been getting.”
Right now, the Capitals are in the first Wild Card spot with a 26-15-9 record through 50 games (61 points). They’re four points up on the Bruins, who sit the second WC spot. After that the Red Wings are the first among non-playoff teams with 50 points this season. So as of right now, Washington is in a fairly decent spot as teams struggle in the Eastern Conference.
However, a 4-1 loss to Ottawa on a not-so-Super Bowl Sunday spoke volumes with regard to the team, as trouble on special teams and at even strength were evident.
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Beyond the standings, the 32-year-old defenseman believes that in the Capitals’ recent struggles, a lot of the pitfalls and mistakes they’re making are avoidable. Their problems are also fixable, and if they can avoid old habits and overthink, the right results should start coming their way.
“I think sometimes you get stuck in between when things aren’t going your way. I think you’ve kind of seen that point on our power play. When things go south you try to manipulate things perfectly. And whether that’s sometimes overpassing or making sure that you’re finding the perfect play, sometimes, it’s too much going back to the basics. Oversimplifying, too, is another way you can easily as an athlete do. You got to play with confidence. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around the league, I think when pucks start going in the net for you, it feels a lot better.
“It feels like whether it’s a period of time or an area of our game we’re just not firing on all cylinders all the time,” he said, adding, “We’ve certainly haven’t had great results. But I don’t think we’re getting the doors blown off us or anything. I think there’s a lot of games that you know we actually don’t play too bad at all… Some of those intangible things, it’s up to us players to push those one way or another and I think there’s areas that we need to clean up in for a more complete effort. Whether that’s a bad start or bad middle of the game or blown lead at the end fo the game I think there’s just little things that we need to tighten up. I think that’ll go a long way.”
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Carlson also added that Washington is coming closer to not only getting back on track and putting their woes in the rearview, but also regaining their team identity amid multiple losses.
“I don’t think [we’re] very far,” No. 74 said of the team’s identity. “I think, like I said before, it’s the little things and obviously, they mean a lot in this game. I think every team from first to last is not that far off of one another, but you got to earn those. You got to earn those little things that tip one way or anything, and I just don’t think we’ve been that powerful in certain areas that can make up for a bad rush play in a game or ad couple blown D-zone coverages. That’s just the way these things work.”
Washington looks to get back to their winning way and see Laviolette pick up his 700th career win as it faces his former team in Nashville on Tuesday. One area where Carlson wants to see improvement, though, is on the man advantage, which is the fifth-worst in the league (15.5 percent) and has arguably cost them one too many games this season. It also surrendered a shorthanded goal against on Sunday, marking the sixth time in 2021-22 that the team has surrendered a SHG.
“I think our power play’s kind of always been a buoy for us too during these times. It hasn’t been too bad in the last little bit. But in the bigger picture, longer-term thing I think that’s hurt us a lot this year.”