It’s Thanksgiving week and I couldn’t resist the turkey symbolism but let’s face it folks, the Washington Capitals are playing like a bunch of stuffed birds right now.  I’m not talking about the beautifully cooked, delicately sliced Thanksgiving Day turkeys we love to enjoy but the overdone, disappointing tukey jerkey as seen with the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I honestly wonder if even Cousin Eddie would pass up on the Capitals right now.  Could you blame him?

The Capitals need to stop losing games in the first period.

Hockey is a game of 60 minutes with three, evenly divided 20 minute periods.  Except the Capitals forgot that you have to play in the first period as wintessed by their 0-5-2 record when falling behind in the opening frame.  To be fair, the Caps can score a lot of goals in the second period this season so far (25 goals) and in the final period (21 goals) but they simply fall flat on their faces in the opening period of each game.

The Caps started the season with a solid 4-3-0 record and then the wheels just fell off.  During the current four game winless streak, the Capitals have been outscored 9-0 in the first period and they’ve been behind in 12 of their 20 overall games so far this season.   As a team, this organization seems to have forgotten that in order to win hockey games you have to score goals.  The Capitals rank 24th in the NHL in shooting (9.2%) and 26th in goals per game (2.75.)  Through the first 20 games, no Caps player has scored double-digit goals.

Special teams needs to help the Capitals win some games too.

Whether it’s football or hockey, the role of special teams has evolved from an afterthought of sorts to a specialized, integral part of these sports.  Teams usually cannot win without the help of special teams but they can certainly lose games because of a lack of special teams focus.  For the Capitals, their power play units also are in the NHL cellar and rank 24th in the league with a paltry 18.9% man advantage percentage.  The Caps’ penalty kill units fare a bit better and rank 15th (78.3%) but that means that almost one quarter of the time their opponents are scoring on man advantage situations.

The Caps need to win out of desperation, not doom.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 04: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring his second goal of the game against the Los Angeles Kings in the third period at Capital One Arena on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

The season is coming to its one-quarter mark and the Capital sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division which means they’re hanging around the basement stairs right now.  The good news is that Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie have started skating again and may be coming off of the injured list.

While this is a positive step, the Caps need to stop shooting themselves in the foot the first period of every game and score first and keep their leads on their opponents.  If they can reverse their early-season trends, there’s hope that this year can be salvaged quickly.  If they can’t change their losing ways, this could turn out to be a really long season.



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