“It’s a long year,” T.J. Oshie says after the Washington Capitals’ deflating 3-0 shutout loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday. But even though it’s still early, he and Washington both recognize one similar pattern that comes with the lackluster 4-4-0 record to kick off the year.
And it involves keeping the momentum up for longer than a period.
“All in all, not a full 60,” Oshie explained. “There were moments when we did a good job… we just need to put in a full sixty.”
Looking at the first eight games of the season, the Capitals have struggled to string together three solid periods of play; while recent games have featured four-goal second and third periods, they come after previous struggles in earlier frames, which include lapses in defensive coverage, sloppy play and a lack of momentum at 5-on-5 that prove costly for the club.
“It’s kind of been how the season is going right now,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “We came out slow in the first. We’ve had trouble putting 60 minutes together. Our defense wasn’t great in the first; it got a little better in the second and third. There’s still those odd times that we’re giving up grade-A scoring chances. We have to keep tightening up, we have to make it really hard to get to the net and get any opportunities at our net front.”
When it comes to Dallas, the chances were low and Washington found itself forced to the outside for a majority of the game. The Stars had the upper hand in shots and dominated in the face-off circle and puck possession game through the first 55 minutes of play. Only at the end, with an empty net and a 2-0 deficit to come back from, did the Capitals really start to step on the gas.
“It’s just been a lack of finishing and putting together 60 minutes,” Jensen repeated.
Going forward, Washington knows that something’s got to give, and that the club has to find a solution before things get out of hand. That includes generating more at even strength and getting things going on offense.
“Create a little bit more traffic, maybe,” Strome said. “It’s always hard for a goalie to save them when you do [that]. We have to find a way to get some traffic.”
“We’ve got to do a better job on getting to the inside,” Oshie added. “Whether that’s creating chances off the rush, off the forecheck or off some o-zone play… we can do better.”
The Capitals stars also have to start generating more. Evgeny Kuznetsov turned up the speed later in the game but needs to maintain that for three periods. That will help the likes of Alex Ovechkin, who led the team with seven shots, in generating chances on both the first and second lines.
Washington has two more games left on this tough road swing that will see them face the Nashville Predators on Saturday and high-flying Carolina Hurricanes on Monday.
“We’ve got two more games on the road here, which is always a good place to figure out your game.”