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As Frustration Builds, ‘Deflated’ Capitals Seek More From Each Other

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Washington Capitals

ARLINGTON, V.A. — A quarter of the way through the season, things haven’t gone according to plan for the Washington Capitals. And while they’re feeling the frustration, they’re trying not to let it take over.

Washington is 7-10-3 to open the 2022-23 campaign, and the Capitals have dropped nine of their last 11 games and four in a row and is five points out of a Wild Card spot. Not only that, but they have also seen themselves showcase flashes of their potential and strong play, but inconsistency through 60 minutes has ended up leading to defeat after defeat.

“I mean, it’s tough to say. It feels like it’s not going our way and when you know it’s bouncing the wrong way, it’s just frustrating. You know, it feels like it has for a while now, and we have to chase from behind… it’s very frustrating,” Marcus Johansson said. “I feel like were such a good hockey team and it’s kind of gotten into our heads a little bit. And we just got to work through it, we got to find a way to work together to get through this.”

Right now, Washington’s also not finding a lot of energy, and that has also led to some struggles and a lack of chemistry through the lineup.

“I felt a little deflated out there,” Nick Jensen admitted after Saturday’s loss. “I’m trying to bring energy to the game — I think all of us are. But we’re having trouble finding it… got to find a way to get energy and bring it on the ice.

“It’s [about] doing it as a unit of five. When one guy gets the puck, the other four guys should be working the hardest of anyone, sprinting, getting open, supporting the puck,” Jensen added. I feel like sometimes, we get the puck — myself included — we kind of just get on a train track and our feet kind of stay still. And no one’s sprinting to spots and helping each other… I know guys really want it, and I’m not saying the effort’s not there, but you’ve got to find a way to find it.”

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Over the last decade, Washington has held itself to a high standard as a consistent playoff team and top performer in the Metropolitan Division. However, that style of play just hasn’t been present this season for a myriad of reasons, from a number of key injuries up front to a lack of offense at even strength or the power play. And at the end of the day, those high standards can make the current situation even more frustrating, especially as the losses add up.

“It’s a good place to be, it’s a good team, and that’s the standards that are set here, I think. It’s just the way it is,” Johansson said, adding, “This team can beat any team in the league on any day. No doubt about it and we’ve shown that. There are times, sometimes I’ve been other places where you feel it’s just kind of too hard, and that’s not the case here. We have such a good team, even with all these guys out.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov agreed and said that right now, the Capitals can’t find joy in their game. When they do that, things will start to turn around.

“The game styles always used to be the way the fans like and we like it. It’s been like that for such a long time, and now we’ve been missing that joy a little bit in our games and that fun part, and that’s how it is sometimes when you’re not winning the games,” Kuznetsov said. ” It’s grind and a little bit ugly sometimes. So we got to get a couple of those ugly wins in a row, and then maybe we’ll play a little bit more with the joy.”

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While the Capitals aren’t currently in playoff position, Johansson said that there’s no room for frustration or tension and that giving up now isn’t an option for the group. If anything, this situation is one that can bring them closer together.

“You have to do it for each other. You know, you can’t just lay down and quit. I feel like, I mean we show that a bunch of games that we don’t quit,” Johansson said, adding, “There’s no panic. There’s urgency. I feel like we got it. We can’t wait for anything. You know, it’s frustrating, but we got to stick with it. It’s just what we can do. We’re going to stick to it, work harder and work better and stick with it.”

Kuznetsov agreed and also emphasized that it’s still early. While Thanksgiving can be a marker for where things stand early and provide a preview of the eventual playoff picture, there’s still three-fourths of a season left.

“It’s too early for frustration, you know? I’m probably the last guy who’s going to be frustrated. There’s days like that when you come and there’s not a lot of joy and a lot of fun, you just work,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s not just about how hard you work, it’s also how smart you work. We have to take a step back a little bit and execute some plays. I know we’re going to compete next game, I know we’re going to work hard. I know that. But we have to execute some plays. The players that can make plays have to make plays.”

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