If there was a version of “Washington Capitals Mad Libs” that could be played during what is now an eight-game losing streak, it would go something like this:
“The Capitals found themselves down by (number) early in the (number) period and could not fight back despite outshooting (NHL team) by (number).
Let’s use Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, shall we?
“The Capitals found themselves down by (three) early in the (first) period and could not fight back despite outshooting (Boston) by (20).
Within the last eight games, the Capitals have scored 11 goals (1.375 GF/G), three PP goals in 29 chances (10.3%), two shutouts, one goal or less in five games and a combined two goals from Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. There is no way to sugarcoat this: the Capitals are playing horrible hockey right now.
It is quite convenient that HBO is around filming “24/7” during what is the Caps’ worst losing streak since February/March 2007 because we can see what it is like to be inside the locker room. Jokes have been made about Bruce Boudreau’s expletive-laced tirades between periods and timeouts. But in the big picture, it has become somewhat evident that Boudreau is starting to lose that very locker room. The players believe in him as a coach, but they are not responding to adversity. The term “killer instinct” has been thrown around many times here and the Capitals are proving with every game that they still do not possess one. Part of that onus is on Boudreau. If his impassioned speeches can’t get the Capitals fired up enough to play, that’s his fault. You can’t fire the players and at some point, Boudreau’s job will be on the line.
Fans and writers alike can harp on the fact that the team is showing signs of breaking out, but at this point, there are no moral victories. If you want proof, consider what David Steckel had to say earlier this week:
”Who cares about how well we can play? We’re sick of how well we can play. Losing sucks.”
Steckel and the rest of the Capitals know that playing well doesn’t mean a thing if they can’t win. They are not winning and therefore not playing well. Outshooting Boston 26-2 in the third period is pointless if the score isn’t tied up. The little things don’t matter anymore.
Washington, who has dominated the Southeast Division for the better part of three years, is now sitting in third place behind the Atlanta Thrashers and Tampa Bay Lightning. They find themselves just two points ahead of eighth place and nine points out of first place. The Capitals, favorites to finally get over the hump and win the Stanley Cup, are now closer to not making the playoffs than first place in the conference.
Try putting a positive spin on that.