By Reed S. Albers
After a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday night, the Washington Capitals talked a great deal about mental toughness and needing to keep their chins up after bad bounces and goals.
Unfortunately for Caps fans, it was all talk.
Against an injury-riddled Buffalo Sabres team missing nine regular roster players, the Capitals lost 5-1 in an effort that has erased any positives fans might have been clinging to after two wins earlier in the week.
Buffalo’s first score was the exact type of goal Alzner said breaks the team’s confidence. An attempt by Dennis Wideman to clear the puck bounced off Paul Szczechura’s skate and slid onto the waiting stick of Luke Adam who buried it behind Tomas Vokoun.
Surely the talk of “mental toughness” and not letting the game slip away after one goal would come into play for the Capitals, but that didn’t happen.
Washington responded to their fluky one goal deficit with another goal against five minutes later, this time off the stick of Jason Pominville. Jason Chimera’s penalty shot goal six minutes into the second period could have created momentum, but any chance for that was squashed when Andrej Sekera scored less than 30 seconds later to return Buffalo’s two goal lead.
Zach Kassian scored his first NHL goal to make it 4-1 in the second and Adam’s second goal of the night at the start of the third sealed it. An extra bit of humiliation was added by Jochen Hecht’s short-handed goal near the end of the third.
For the second Saturday night game in a row, the Capitals found themselves outclassed by a team populated by AHL call-ups filling in for a depleted roster. Fans watching at home were treated to another sloppy, half-hearted effort from a team that some considered the deepest roster in club history. There were no leaders on the ice and the leadership from the bench was just as absent.
Individuals who need to carry the team did the exact opposite. Defenders Wideman and Roman Hamrlik — a free agent signing who was supposed to bring veteran experience — finished as a minus three. Among the forwards, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom stood out as the worst as they were on ice for every goal scored against the Caps.
After starting 7-0-0 in October, Washington is now 5-9-1 since that stretch and have allowed 4.42 goals a game since losing to the Nashville Predators seven games ago.
This is a mess Hadeed wouldn’t even want to steam clean up.
And it might get sloppier as the Caps face a three game home stand against the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators next week.
The Capitals are a lost team desperately in need of direction, but who is leading could be in question by the end of next week. Stay tuned fans, that is if you can stomach another game of this slump.