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.

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  • http://neverletyouseizecontrol.blogspot.com/ Jessica

    I like hearing Books curse a bit. Then i don’t feel like a potty mouth. :P
    Hopefully the Caps get the wins going so we can whoop everyone’s asses in the playoffs. And this losing streak won’t help anyone. We need to shape up! there’s my two cents. I have nothing else to say.

  • Rob

    They have been lazy, that is for sure. But, in the past when they were lazy for a period or just a period of time Theo has bailed them out. Now, pucks are bouncing off his body and into the net. Hopefully the lazy play in front of him does not destroy his confidence because I think long term that is the only real damage that can be done going into the playoffs.

  • http://markb2260.blogspot.com/ Usually Frustrated Caps Fan

    Strategy is making sure you have a long term plan to your ultimate goal – the Caps have that and are executing it. Tactics is the here and now and that’s what you are talking about when you talk about “the geometry of a perfect pass, that predatory instinct to find a weak spot, the prescience to anticipate your opponent’s next move …”

    It’s obvious that IF you Win EVERY battle you win the war. What’s not obvious is that you can win A LOT of battles BUT still loose the war. You have to win the key battles at the key times to win the war and I still think it’s the plan and that’s being executed.

    I’ll never, ever have a problem with the Caps playing hard, smart hockey like the moment you show re: Semin’s shorthanded goal against the flightless birds. However, Ovechkin doiesn’t need to be flying around the ice risking his own body on hits like the one on Jagr in the Olympics in any of these last six games before the playoffs. IMHO that wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, at all.

    Remember they didn’t get a league leading 110 points “coasting” or being lazy and that’s generally not a mark a team that isn’t filled with elite athletes attain. Elite athletes don’t like to loose and I’m sure these guys are playing to win every night, though they won’t, nor shoud they, be as motivated to risk injury as their opponents will when they play the Thrashers and the Bruins in four of the next six games since the Caps already have their ticket to the post-season.

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  • BobbyG

    Well the curse is over and the Caps are back to their winning ways. I would have preferred they would have made a more dominating statement against the Thrashers, but at least they halted their skid. There are still five more games left in the regular season to work on their game fundamentals before the real season begins.