On several occasions this season, Capitals coach Adam Oates has made it clear that scoring goals has never been an issue with the Caps. Preventing them has always been the challenge.
During their current six-game losing streak, their longest since December 2010, the Caps have scored just seven goals, while allowing 19. In five of those six losses they’ve been held to one goal or fewer, including Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“I presume some guys are squeezing their sticks, to use a cliché,” Oates said. “They’re obviously fighting it. We played hard and we didn’t gamble to give them 2-on-1 chances, which is a very important thing. … Human nature is to gamble and cheat and I like the fact that we didn’t.”
During the Capitals’ losing streak, they’ve gotten three goals from Alex Ovechkin, two from Jason Chimera, and one each from Brooks Laich and John Carlson. They’ve also gone 1-for-17 on the power play, including 0-for-4 against the Senators, falling into a second-place tie with the St. Louis Blues with a 23.6 percent success rate.
“I think we missed Ovi a little bit,” Oates said of Ovechkin’s absence Sunday because of a lower body injury, “more than I thought we would because we’ve handle it before. [The Senators] did a decent job. We didn’t win draws and that’s a big thing. If you don’t win draws, it’s down the ice.”
Players say there are other reasons the Caps are not getting the scoring chances they were earlier this season. Laich said they need to play a little “heavier” by driving the net to create chances and draw penalties.
Brouwer, who has gone nine games without a goal and is stuck on nine for the season, said the forwards and defensemen have to work in unison to create better looks at the net.
“We’ve got to work on our secondary chances,” he said. “We’ve got to get more rebound shots. We’ve got to not look for a better play. Maybe just throw it on net and maybe we’ll get those rebounds some way.
“The D-men can do a better job of holding onto the puck so forwards can get to the net. [They need to] have the patience to wait for traffic in front and have the skill to get the puck there.”
Oates said this is the time of year – he called it the “dog days” -- when players’ professionalism and work ethic need to show through. They’ll get their next chance Friday night in Newark against the New Jersey Devils, who are coming off a 7-1 win over the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night.
“The only way to get out of it is to work harder than you thinking you’re working and you work smart,” Oates said. “… I know the guys are feeling like they have to play a perfect game right now and that’s a difficult feeling, for sure.”