“It’s just mistakes and it’s costing us. People are getting beat. The video don’t lie.” Coach Dale Hunter, after the Caps 3-0 loss to the Islanders.
“If you aren’t prepared every night, as an individual, you’re not going to be successful.” Matt Hendricks
Just when you think this Washington Capitals team might be gaining some momentum and truly go on a run, they play a game like they did last night against the New York Islanders, sleepwalking their way though a 3-0 domination before a noticeably less-than-capacity crowd at Verizon Center. And after the Islanders notched their third goal at 12:38 of the third period — their second power play goal of the evening — the fans that were there began streaming out into the unseasonably warm-ish January night, surrounded by the sounds of boos raining down on their heroes.
The Caps, to be blunt, stunk it up against a team that not only are tied for last place in the conference coming into the game, but had suffered a 3-1 loss the previous night. The Islanders, to be sure, are one of the worst teams in the league. Their 40 points are more than just three Western Conference teams. They own a minus-28 goal differential, again outpacing just three other teams in the NHL. And at 7-10-1, only five other teams own fewer road wins.
But the Islanders, a young team trying to find parts that will build the future of the team — whether that’s on Long Island, in Kansas City, or in Quebec Province — play hard. Every single night they come to the rink, which is more than can be said for these Capitals right now.
After the game, forward Matt Hendricks spoke about that disturbing trend. “I think the thing that hurt us tonight was we were just flat. We didn’t come out with the energy we needed. We didn’t come out with tenacity. We know what the standings are and where we sit right now, and it just wasn’t a very good effort, that’s for sure.”
Asked why the Caps were so flat, Hendricks struggled for an answer. “I don’t know. We had opportunities to shoot the puck, and we didn’t shoot the puck. We tried to make “cute” plays, we weren’t putting pucks in places where we could go get ‘em.”
“I don’t know if I can pinpoint anything exactly,” Hendricks went on. “Every team’s good in this league. It doesn’t matter who you play. If you aren’t prepared every night, as an individual, you’re not going to be successful. I just think we didn’t do what we needed to do tonight. We didn’t execute our game plan.”
Defenseman Karl Alzner concurred with his teammate. “It’s frustrating. We didn’t play a very good game, a very smart game. [The Islanders] worked extremely hard and didn’t give us a whole lot and we didn’t create too much for ourselves. It was a tough loss for us, kinda felt like it was a road game, getting booed and stuff. It’s not very fun for us.”
Asked if the boos were deserved, Alzner didn’t back down. “Oh yeah, 100 percent deserved. It would be nice to [get the fans] a little more pumped up than that. But we didn’t give them anything to cheer about.”
So why were the Caps so flat against the worst team in the East? “Maybe getting a little overconfident?” Alzner pondered. “That would be one of the only things I can think about. It just wasn’t enough effort against this team. Maybe we’re thinking “This is the New York Islanders,” when they play us hard every single time we play them. It was definitely the wrong mind-set we had.”
At this point in the season, the Caps can ill-afford to overlook any team, yet it continues to happen. They had a golden opportunity to make up some ground in the conference, playing four teams in the bottom half of the standings in a four-game homestand. It started off well enough, with the Caps taking the first three of that set. But last night’s performance took any bloom off what they previously accomplished.
Six points out of eight sounds good, but any team that has their sights set as high as the Capitals absolutely have to win games like last night against the Islanders. Two of the hardest working players on the team didn’t think they played hard enough, admitted that the team was flat, suggested that they weren’t prepared to play winning hockey. All those things were evident in their team’s performance, and the Capitals are very quickly running out of time for excuses.
CAPS NOTES: Defenseman Mike Green was scheduled for sports hernia surgery by a specialist in St. Louis today. At the time of this post, no updates have been provided by the team.
In what has become a staple of the Dale Hunter regime, the Caps were outshot by the Islanders 28-17. The Caps had 10 shots through the first two periods.
Washington allowed two power play goals in six short-handed situations and did not score on three power play opportunities, mustering just three shots on goal with the extra skater.