By Adam Vingan
The Washington Capitals are playing horribly right now.
Too many words have been wasted trying to romanticize the Caps’ recent struggles. The aforementioned sentence is really all anybody needs to know.
Washington is 1-5-1 in its last seven games, 3-7-1 in its last 11 and has lost four straight after Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Based on numbers and points alone, this current skid seemingly looks better than last season’s eight-game skid where the Caps went 0-6-2 from December 2 to December 18. The Caps only earned two points in those eight games, while they have earned six in 11. They’re not comparable. In fact, this season’s is much worse.
Last season, the Caps lost five of the eight games by one goal. One loss was by two goals, one was by three and one can be considered a “blowout” – the 7-0 drubbing by the New York Rangers that was dramatized on HBO’s “24/7.”
The Caps lost tight games last December. Against the Dallas Stars December 2, they weren’t out of it. Against the Colorado Avalanche December 11, they weren’t out of it. Against the Boston Bruins December 18, they weren’t out of it.
This season, however, Washington has found almost-mystical ways to get out of games. Against the Vancouver Canucks October 29, the Caps, once down 3-1, tied the game at 4-4 entering the third period, but two goals against in 34 seconds ended all comeback hopes in a 7-4 loss. Washington led the New York Islanders 2-0 after the first period November 5, but allowed a team that entered the game losers of six straight to win 5-3. It was the Islanders’ first win in exactly three weeks. After that game, New York went on to lose four straight.
The Winnipeg Jets seemed like a respite, having only won once in their previous six entering Thursday’s game with the Caps. The Jets looked anything but hapless Thursday when they scored four unanswered goals to win 4-1. Saturday, the Maple Leafs, who had only scored eight goals in their last six games and missing seven regulars, scored three-quarters of that total in 40 minutes, all unanswered. Washington is officially the NHL’s “slumpbuster.”
That exciting come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks (perhaps the only team currently playing worse than the Caps) November 1 and that dominant 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes (who could rival the Ducks for the previously mentioned title)? Temporary aberrations. They’ve been outscored 14-3 in their last three games. Unlike last season’s skid, the Caps have nothing to rest their laurels on this time.
The Caps are losing to inferior competition regularly and look horrible doing it. There are too many questions and not enough answers at this point. Yet, here’s a point – or two – that can be made. With the loss, the Bruins’ win over the Islanders and the Florida Panthers’ win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps are now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
It’s only November, but for a team with such high expectations, it’s perspective.