What Is The Identity of This Washington Capitals Team?
The Washington Capitals have not gotten off to a very good start. Odds are I am not breaking any news by saying that. Everyone reading this knows that at the time of writing this the Caps sit at 7-10-3 twenty games into the season. That’s not the start anyone wanted. Players, management or fans.
However, even with a bad record it needs to be pointed out that this team is nowhere near out of anything. One, it is still early. With twenty games played that means there are still sixty-two games to be played. Two, the Capitals are only five points out of a playoff spot. It’s a bit early to be talking playoffs, but you still want to be within striking distance of a playoff spot, and Washington still is.
It’s early. There is still a ton of hockey to be played. There is still nearly four thousand minutes of hockey that needs to be played. Teams that are ahead of the Capitals could come back down. Washington themselves could and should get better in the near future.
The Capitals are currently struggling though. Playing poorly is one thing, there is something else that is starting to concern me possibly even more. While watching this Capitals team I’m not sure I know what this team is.
When you watch hockey, teams will often have an identity. That identity can be a lot of things. You can be a fast team. You can be a physical team. You can be a deep team that comes at you in waves. You can be a hard working and grinding team that is incredibly hard to play against. You can be a defensive team that relies on good D and good goaltending. The options can go on and on.
While watching the Capitals so far this season I don’t see anything.
Now we have to be honest, Washington is still a very banged up team. They have gotten a little healthier in recent games, but they are still missing several key players. To know what a team truly is they have to be fully healthy.
The argument I would use against what I just said is this. Even when they are fully healthy, how much better are they really? Can we honestly sit back and say that we are 100% certain this team will be better when the injured players come back?
You hope. That’s for sure. You also need to look at some things with logic. Some of these guys coming back will have not played hockey for a long time. They need some time to get back up to speed. That could take a couple of weeks of playing games. Then you have a guy like T.J. Oshie who when he isn’t battling a serious injury he is fighting off a minor ding. Not to mention he is 35-years-old.
You also have Nicklas Backstrom. Who knows what he will look like when he comes back. He is also thirty-five and he will be coming off a major hip injury. I hope he comes back and looks good, but I can’t say he will.
When fully healthy this team could, and I emphasize could, be a team that comes at you in waves. I am very pessimistic about them staying healthy. As of right now, that is not their identity.
So what are they? They do have some good skaters on the team. They still do not play that fast though. They are not that physical of a team. They are not that hard to play against. They are not great on defense. They have gotten some good goaltending, but nothing that will scare teams, at least not yet. They are average at special teams being 16th in penalty kill percentage and 23rd on the power play.
The one thing that I still think this team does well is they do not give up. When they are down it is still hard to keep them down. There are at least three games this season that shows this. They were down multiple goals to the Canucks and they won. They were down multiple goals to the Kings and they won. They were down three goals to the Blues and looked pathetic and forced overtime. They could have won that game as well.
That isn’t the best identity to have. At the end of the day that means you are down and need to come back. It’s a good trait to have, but it hard to do that vs the very best teams. Come playoff time it’s really hard to come back because you are only playing the very best teams.
Right now the identity of this Capitals team seems to be Alex Ovechkin. Did he score or didn’t he? Is he one goal closer to “The Great One” or not? That feels a lot like the Los Angeles Lakers during Kobe Bryant’s final years with the team. No identity, no future, just a great trying to play his best and climbing the record books.
It’s still early. As much as some people don’t want to hear that it doesn’t make it any less true. There is a lot of the season still to go. The Capitals are still close to a playoff spot.
They need to turn this thing around fairly quickly though. To jump back into contender status I think they need to figure out what they are as well. Right now it feels like a team built with some desperation. Thanks to that they lack some identity.