Caps refuse to play blame game

Caps refuse to play blame game
February 6, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Normally, when a team that's supposed to be near the top of the league standings is at the bottom, accusations fly. Angry glares are exchanged.

And fingers, almost always, are pointed.

So what’s going on inside the Capitals’ locker room, where the locals are off to a 2-7-1 start and sit dead last in the NHL standings?

Has the blame game begun?

“We have to stay positive,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We can’t turn on each other and start bickering at each other because that’s just going to be cancerous.”

There is, of course, plenty of blame to go around for the Caps’ poor start, their worst since starting 2-8-1 in 2003-04.

In the court of public opinion that starts with Alex Ovechkin, who is off to the worst start of his career with two power-play goals and two assists after 10 games.

“It’s not like we’re waiting on Ovi to lead the charge and score four or five goals in one game,” said Capitals left wing Jason Chimera, who is still seeking his first goal.

“You can’t look to one person. One person doesn’t win you a Stanley Cup. You’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and go from there. I’m sure he’s going to get his share of goals.”

Through 10 games coach Adam Oates has tried Ovechkin on the right wing and the left wing. He’s matched him with centers Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle and now, Mike Ribeiro, and wingers Marcus Johansson, Joey Crabb, Troy Brouwer and, now Wojtek Wolski.

“It's a constant shuffle and you're always trying to find chemistry,” Oates said. “You see that, for example, [Toronto’s Phil Kessel] gets three Grade A [chances] a night, so is that the chemistry or just a guy having a tough time? There's all the answers in the world. I think [Wolski] is playing well.”

While Ovechkin’s lack of production is part of the Capitals’ problem, it’s far from the only one. Their penalty kill has surrendered one or more power-play goals in seven of the first 10 games and they are 0-6-1 in those games.

Goaltenders Michal Neuvirth, who will get his second straight start in Pittsburgh on Thursday night, and Braden Holtby have allowed three goals or more in eight of the Capitals’ 10 games, while the Caps have yet to score more than three goals in a game.

The best thing going for the Caps is that there are still another 38 games to be played in the regular season. That journey continues in Pittsburgh, where the Caps begin a stretch in which four of the next five games are on the road.

“It’s not like we don’t have the character in this room to get the job done,” defenseman Mike Green said.