Before the lockout-shortened 2013 season began, a lot of the touch among the pundits was about just how crucial each and every game in a 48-game season will be.
Teams are going to have to treat every game like it’s a playoff battle, or else they could find themselves out of the race for the playoffs before the season really begins. While most teams have seemingly gotten that memo, it’s clear that one team hasn’t.
As of Friday morning the Washington Capitals are the only team in the NHL without a point on the season. Clearly, first-year head coach Adam Oates still has some work to do to get his players to fully buy into the system that he’s trying to sell to them.
In a regular year, being 0-3-0 with zero points to start the season isn’t overly worrisome despite the fact that it’s still not a wanted start. However, to get off to that start with such a compressed season, it could be more damning than usual.
In their three games, the Capitals have lost to the likes of Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, and Montreal. What’s even more alarming is how they lost those games.
In their season opener, Washington had to fight back to tie the Lightning three times before the second period ended. In the third, it seemed as if all the fight in the team was gone, and they gave up three goals, including two in a three minute span, in the final stanza to lose 6-3.
Against Winnipeg they came out guns-a-blazing, but again, the Capitals players looked as if they had just ran a marathon. Although they outshot the Jets 17-6 in the third, they looked slow, uninspired, and tired in their 4-2 loss. You would think that a team playing in its home opener after a long work stoppage would play a tough brand of hockey for the cheering fans. Obviously, you haven’t watched the Capitals.
After getting run out of their own building by Winnipeg, Washington came back two days later and laid another egg in front of its home crowd. Four second period goals by Montreal put the Capitals on the fast track to an 0-3 start with a 4-1 loss to the Habs.
Needless to say, it’s been a pretty inauspicious start for the Capitals who came into the year looking to once again go atop the Southeast Division standings. But what is exactly the problem with the team that many projected to win the division this season?
For one, Oates doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do with start forward Alexander Ovechkin. In the team’s three games, Oates has bounced Ovechkin from left wing to right back to left again, but nothing has worked to help the former NHL MVP find a groove under his third coach in less than a year and a half.
The team’s leading scorer, Joel Ward and offseason acquisition Mike Ribeiro appear to be the only two players finding success under Oates. Ward has two goals thus far while Rebeiro leads the team in points with three, all of which are assists.
Above all else, there is one major issue when it comes right down to it. The play of the Washington goaltenders has been down right atrocious.
Netminders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth have not provided the Capitals with the goaltending that it needs to be successful. Both are sporting above 4.00 goals against averages while neither is above a .870 save percentage.
Needless to say, it’s not the type of goalie play that’s going to win you a lot of games, and it may be something, if it continues, that leads to a move being made somewhere down the line.
Again, being 0-3 isn’t the end of the world, even if it’s during a shortened season. Howbeit, if something doesn’t change soon with the way they play, these Capitals may find themselves quickly eliminated from playoff contention and thinking about next year much sooner than anticipated.