The Washington Capitals are arguably noted as one of the most dominant hockey teams in recent years during the regular season, but has a huge monkey on their backs for not being able to reach the Stanley cup during the Alexander Ovechkin era. Since the 2007-08 season, the Capitals have amassed a 237-125-48 record; finishing first in the division four times and finishing second once.
However this is not the case during this lockout-shortened season. Throughout the first 7 games, the Caps have looked nothing like the past teams. They have gotten off to a 1-5-1 start, easily the worst start in franchise history. 7 games in the Capitals have scored only 15 goals (23rd in league) and have allowed 25 goals (3rd worst in league). Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who was the unsung hero during the team’s run to the playoffs last season, has allowed 10 pucks into the net after two starts and has a 5.44 Goals Against Average. After being benched the Caps turned to Czech goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Neuvirth has fared better in five games posting a 2.97 GAA alongside 173 saves while allowing 15 total goals. However his 2.97 GAA is tied for 30th in the league. Washington’s defense has not been the same as they were in the past, losing its hard hitting luster. The offense is not generating enough points. Alexander Ovechkin is off to a slow start after scoring under 90 points for the first time in his career last season, and only has two goals and an assist throughout the first seven games.
Has Ovie hit his peak and is starting to decline at the tender age of 27?
From what I’ve seen Ovie isn’t playing with the same passion as he did during his MVP seasons in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 when he amassed 112, 110 and 109 points in that order. He won the Hart trophy twice during that span, and won the Art Ross trophy as the top scorer in NHL during 2007-2008 season scoring 112 points. This year Ovie has only three points and the team scoring leader is Mike Ribeiro who has 8 points (1 goal, 7 assists) in 7 games. The potent Capital offense isn’t around anymore or are they just completely in a funk where they did not have proper summer training, and did not have preseason and training camp to build team chemistry? From my standpoint throughout the first 7 games, the Capitals are nothing but a team looking lost on the ice. After seeing Ovie score a goal against the Maple Leafs last night, he wasn’t as passionate as he used to be as his celebrations and hard hits are missing.
Who is to blame behind the Capitals’ struggle? Should we have fired Bruce Boudreau who led the capitals to 5 playoff appearances? Sure he had a huge monkey on his back for not being able to reach the Eastern conference finals often losing in the semifinals. Current head coach Adam Oates, a hall of fame player who played in the NHL for 20 seasons was known for his play-making style, scoring 1,420 points (341 goals; 1,079 assists) in his career. Will his playing style transfer over to coaching?
We should expect the same type of team as we are accustomed to, hard hitting defenders and high scoring offense. Instead we have a complete opposite whereas we are allowing goals and not scoring enough. Who’s to blame? Is it Adam Oates for not pushing his players hard enough, is it because Ovie isn’t leading the team in the right direction, or is it because those guys are completely unprepared for the season?
I for one am not the type of a guy to play the blame game, I believe if a team is struggling then there is something wrong going on in the locker room. However, this is business and change is needed when things don’t go right. If the Capitals continue playing like this, expect some drastic changes coming.