Saturday night marked another disaster for the Washington Capitals, who fell to 1-4-0 to the red-hot Colorado Avalanche. With that record, the Caps are good for seventh in the Metropolitan Division and twenty-eighth in the league. Yet, if you examine the team’s point count like Ted Starkey, you’ll notice that a theoretical playoff spot isn’t out of the question.
But forget about the playoffs – or that’s what the team should be doing, according to Troy Brouwer. Brouwer is spot-on – the Caps shouldn’t be thinking about transient, long-term goals like a deep playoff run, at least for the time being. They need to get back on track, and that starts with a win over the Edmonton Oilers Monday night.
The Oilers are at the bottom of the competitive Pacific Division. The sixth place team, the Vancouver Canucks, have double the Oilers’ three points. Initially projected to have a breakout season with young stars Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle, the Oilers have been sputtering since the beginning of the season. Their most recent loss, a 5-4 overtime defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs, showed the inconsistency the Oilers have faced in scoring thus far. Nights before the Toronto loss, they were beat 4-1 by the Montreal Canadiens.
In some ways, their one-and-off offense mimics that of the Capitals, though most of the Oilers’ goals have come at even strength. Edmonton’s defense has shown its capability to wear down its opponents, which will likely be a concern for Washington. Though the Caps’ third line has grown stronger, the second line has had enormous difficulty in scoring. It’s expected that after Washington’s latest routing, Adam Oates will switch up his lines a bit. After all, in what alternate universe would Martin Erat be playing on the fourth line?
Nothing has changed for the Capitals, aside from their steadily worsening record. The only difference between the Avs showdown and the Oilers matchup is the Caps’ need to win. Talks of Oates on the chopping block have begun, and many cynics are betting on Washington’s first playoff absence in six years. Will the pessimists prove correct? If and only if the Capitals can’t follow through on their chances, make clean passes, and stabilize their tumultuous defense. Oh, and some better goaltending is in order – but the aforementioned defense can’t hang Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby out to dry. Games are won with a team effort, which the Caps seem to be lacking.