The Capitals held a brief players-only meeting inside the locker room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Thursday morning.
The message: Things arent as bad as they seem.
If the season ended today, the Capitals would be out of the playoffs for the first time in five years. But with 22 games remaining in the regular season, players reminded each other that now is not the time to jump ship.
When you lose, the worst thing that can happen is sometimes guys start to point fingers, Brooks Laich said. We want to make sure that no matter what happens, we dont point any fingers.
There are no excuses. You win as a team, and you lose as a team. The results havent been there, but the worst thing we can do is get frustrated and start tearing apart at the seams.
During the meeting, which one player said lasted about two minutes, defenseman Dennis Wideman pointed out that by playing a few games better than the Florida Panthers, the Caps could start the playoffs on their home ice, where their 19 wins are tied with the Rangers for the most in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Knuble said this season may go down in Capitals history as an anomaly because of the injuries to Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom, but hes not convinced this years team cannot turn things around and go deep into the playoffs.
Whether were the eighth seed or the third, its going to be a challenge, he said. When things dont go your way, the tendency is to give up and pout, and thats when you start falling apart. Were professional players; we need to fight through and find a way to win.
This year is not a write-off yet. Nobody in here is writing it off. Were going to do our best to make the playoffs, and we have the guys that can do it. Its one thing if you dont have the horses. We have the horses.
The problem is that too many of those horses have hooves for hands. The Capitals have scored three goals in their last three games.
Knuble has one goal in his last 48 games. Troy Brouwer has one in his last 18. Jason Chimera has two goals in his last 27 games and Marcus Johansson has one in his last 14.
Defenseman Karl Alzner said the Capitals have grown so accustomed to winning over the past four seasons that they never had to learn how to handle losing.
Your whole mindset changes, he said. You start to second-guess yourself a little bit. When were not doing what were used to doing, you start to question, and thats when bad things happen. Players that play the best dont over-think the game, and thats been a little bit of an issue.
Laich said even players who keep to themselves had something constructive to say in Thursdays meeting. But he wants to see those words turn to action, beginning Friday night when the Montreal Canadiens come to the Verizon Center.
Ive always been an advocate that well done is better than well said, Laich said. You can say what you want, but the game is played out on the ice.
Mike Green agreed, saying there is nothing like a victory to change the mood of a locker room.
Its been a rough go, but the most important thing is we have to look forward and stay positive around here, including myself, Green said. Its going to be a grind over the next month, and we have to win some hockey games.
Question is, can they do it with the team they have? Or will general manager George McPhee need to shake things up with a trade?
We have a good enough team to beat any team in the league, Alzner said. We just need to make sure we do it.