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Capitals Hold Players-Only Meetings In Search Of Spark: ‘We’re Not Playing Our Brand Of Hockey’

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ARLINGTON, V.A. — Despite recent struggles and disappointing back-to-back losses, T.J. Oshie said that the past two days have been some of the “best” for the Washington Capitals in terms of trying to get back on track.

Not only has the team been fine-tuning its game and experimenting with new combinations, but off the ice, the players have been holding players-only meetings to rediscover their identity.

“We’ve had some meetings, obviously we’re not happy with the way we’ve been playing as of late, especially at home,” Oshie explained. “We’ve talked about our identity and how we have to play.”

Washington has dropped three of its last five games and has surrendered at least five goals against in each of those defeats. In their last two games, the Capitals have been outscored 11-2. In the meetings, the players have been able to be transparent with one another and get more of a look at their individual play rather than hearing it solely from head coach Peter Laviolette. For Oshie, that’s something the team needs with 13 games left in the regular season.

“Anytime you’re in a rut like this and this is in my opinion… we’re not playing our brand of hockey. We’re not playing to our identity. I don’t think any amount of coaching would get you out of that,” Oshie admitted. “That comes down to the guys on the ice the players playing a certain way, being prepared a certain way. So we’ve been talking as a group as players. Just getting some thoughts out there on what things need to change. So I think we got a pretty good handle on it.”

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Trevor van Riemsdyk agreed, saying that getting back into a rhythm will be vital as the team looks to not only find its identity to potentially contend but make the playoffs with some security. Washington isn’t in the best position right now, sitting in the second Wild Card spot and 11 points ahead of the New York Islanders.

“No matter how well the season’s gone to this point, whether you’re in first in the league or you’re battle for a playoff spot… playing the right way when you get in [is] highly important. I’ve been on teams where we’ve had awesome seasons, and the last few games or so, we didn’t play the way we wanted,” TVR explained. “It’s not like you can just flick that switch on. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true. When those playoff games get coming up, you want to be playing the right way.”

Van Riemsdyk added that the leadership group and locker room have been able to be transparent and more direct with one another during times like these.

“It’s nice when you feel close, you feel a little more comfortable being pretty direct and say where you think you all stand and what we need to do to get better,” the blueliner noted. “No one feels like they have to tiptoe around or be careful with what they say. They all know we have the same goal in mind, and when they say something, it’s just to achieve that.”

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Washington will be looking to rebound in two key matchups coming up this week. The Capitals face the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. Then on Saturday, they will have a key Metro Division matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Oshie added that having those two games on the slate are exactly the opponents the team needs to face to ignite a spark and see where they’re at and what level they need to attain for the playoff run.

“[These meetings are] more each guy kind of looking at ourselves and seeing what they want out of this season and what we have to do to get to where we all ultimately want to be in June,” Oshie said.

“The identity hasn’t changed. We’ve just gotten away from it,” he added. “We’ve gotten away from having 20 guys in the lineup come with a purpose to win and win a certain way. We just haven’t had that.  Sometimes, you can get away with it if Ovi goes out and scores a bunch of goals or Kuzy does his thing. But a lot of times, you can’t.”

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