I missed a few games and had the chance to watch the tapes. I tried to come up with some explanation for the lack of punch in the Capitals game. One thing just keeps running in my mind about the Capitals' woes. There is nothing special about them.
In the Leafs game, the Caps played pretty solid 5 on 5, but that just seemed good enough for the Washington squad. For all that talent, the Capitals have suddenly had an offensive cramp that it can't seem to shake. There is no catalyst for the Caps' offense, no spark, no life.
It looks as if everyone is just waiting for someone else to take the lead. Alex Ovechkin can't do it alone, and teams have learned to shut him down. Glen Hanlon and the coaches don't seemed bother by it, or make an issue of getting the Caps phenom more open ice. They seem content on letting Ovie skate into a stacked defense with little or no help.
For the entire season I have watched teams stack their defenses against Ovie, isolating him to the left side of the rink. It plays over and over every game. Ovechkin can't seem to break out of that play, and the coaching staff seems to ignore it. I know they are ignoring it because I see it every game. Every game.
But what else really stuns me about this recent game, everyone on the Capitals squad seemed invisible. In contrast, the Maple Leafs' Darcy Tucker, who is not the most talented player in blue and white, generated chances and became a catalyst for the Leafs' offense. There is no player like that for the Washington Capitals. Everyone looks as if they are going through the motions.
No player is making that extra effort to get the good players open, or spark play, or make the Capitals look like they could be an entertaining team. Two quotes from the last couple of games really bother me:
"We're playing some young kids, and we've improved defensively but, as you could see, we're challenged offensively. We've got to at least generate something on the power play, and that didn't happen either. Give (the Leafs) credit. They did well on the penalty kill, and scored some goals when they needed to. They were patient." --Glen Hanlon after the Leafs game.
"Five-on-five, we played pretty well. We took some penalties and got behind the eight-ball. We're missing some key penalty kill guys and when you lose those guys out of your lineup, it obviously hurts." --Brian Sutherby after the Isles game.
Both quotes are steeped with excuses, but no answers. That is what bothers me. Players get hurt in the NHL, it's a fact that this game taxes the bodies of players. The attitude of this team is sinking lower and lower. Soon this team will be a bunch of individuals trying to play a team sport. For the first time, I am starting to doubt the coaching of this team.
It's that lack of something special to break this monotony of drab play the Caps seem accustomed to playing this season that plague them. Even with good 5 on 5 play, the Caps are just not getting it done. In a part of the season where a team should be playing its best, the Caps are playing their worst.