Brooks Laich is right to be angry. His team has lost four of its last six games when it should be building momentum for the post-season. But I have to respectfully disagree with his argument; the Washington Capitals are indeed coasting.
In the first period of their last two games, the Capitals have mustered only four shots on goal. This statistic is compelling evidence that the team is not focused on the games in front of them. If someone says that the team is “sailing through to the postseason”, that’s what they’re talking about. When the boys start climbing out of the two- or three- goal holes they dig themselves, they play like heroes again. That’s great, but why are they floundering in the first period at all?
Since the streak ended, and the Olympic break puncuated the season, the Capitals have made clear that their only goal is the Stanley Cup. I submit that the team’s focus on the playoffs is sabotaging them right now. Put another way: if the Capitals’ eyes remain fixed on the horizon, they’re going to keep tripping on their own laces.
The best coaches teach us that achievement is measured in tiny increments. To aspire to the greatest trophy in sports is admirable, but the rigors of attention must be dedicated to little things. The geometry of a perfect pass, that predatory instinct to find a weak spot, the prescience to anticipate your opponent’s next move; these are the achievements that really matter. Without the little things in abundance, nothing great can ever be accomplished.
I will never accuse our team of being lazy, but a sober assessment must conclude that they are focusing on the long term at the expense of the short term. I sympathize. We know that the Capitals had problems with injury and fatigue in the post-season last year, and no one wants a repeat of that. The team’s best strategy heading into the playoffs is to continue doing what got them here in the first place: WIN.
The triumphant passion, the bloodlust for goalies, the competitive exuberance that characterizes the Washington Capitals must return. And it will come not by focusing on June, or the playoffs, or the next week, or the next game, or even the next twenty minutes. It comes from Right Now. It comes from tiny moments like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Or this one. You get the idea.