I think it's now fair enough to say that the Washington Capitals have entered that really tricky and annoying spot. This is a team that is not really that bad, but they are not very good either. This is a Capitals team that can go on a run, and they can play well for a little while. But they're also a team that is just as likely to go on a bad run and put together bad stretches which takes them out of races.
Since December 23rd the Capitals are 5-10-3. That record is among the bottom teams in the NHL in that time. Their 13 points since then is better than only the San Jose Sharks (12 points) and the Chicago Blackhawks (9 points).
Even with this awful run the Capitals are on they are still far from being out of a playoff race. With 34 games still left to play they are only 7 points out of a divisional playoff spot, behind the Flyers. They're also 7 points behind the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings who currently occupy both wild card spots. Just one small good run and a tiny bad run from a team or two and Washington could find themselves back in a playoff spot.
If the Capitals are going to go on a run and potentially chase a playoff spot they will need a few players to play better than they have recently. That's what we're going to look at today.
I want to point out this is mostly offensively. The guys we'll be talking about today mostly need to play better in terms of getting points and goals and not really defensively or even goaltending. With that being said, who needs to play better?
This is a little weird, and maybe a little unfair to say based on recent performance. But the Capitals are a team that have trouble scoring goals. Who has not had trouble scoring goals throughout their career? Alex Ovechkin. Who is having more trouble scoring goals this season? Ovechkin.
It's unfair to say he needs to play better because when you look at his last 13 games he has scored 12 points. In that time only Dylan Strome has more with 13 points. Ovechkin has also scored 4 goals in his last 13 games which is almost half of his season total.
Ovechkin has contributed to the Capitals problems a bit this season. It's a team that needs goals and he only has 10 goals through 48 games, or his 45 games played.
Can you blame him? No. He's 38-years-old. He wasn't going to remain a fifty goal scorer his entire career. But when you build a team around a 38-year-old you just hope and pray he doesn't decline. Well, he's declined this season.
If the Capitals want to get back into a playoff spot they are going to need Ovechkin to go on a goal scoring run. Is it fair to ask a 38-year-old to carry a team? No. But this is what the Capitals have done.