Photo credit: Alex Brandon
The Washington Capitals have a glaring hole: they are terrible in the first period. The team is being outscored 24-15 in opening frames, one of the worst differentials in the league. Friday night, it happened again: the Montreal Canadiens took a 3-0 lead less than 14 minutes into the game.
The Caps know this is a problem too. It’s existed all year and you’d have to be stupid to miss it. Most troubling, though, is the lack of answers the players seem to have for the issue. They know it’s there, they just can’t stop it.
“Maybe we need some better music or something,” Troy Brouwer quipped. “I don’t know. We gotta find a way. We gotta find it fast.”
Once Washington gets out of those first 20 minutes, they play good hockey. The Caps have scored the third-most second period goals in the league and they are okay in the third too. Washington is treading water in the horrid Metropolitan division, but they’d be much better off if they didn’t spot their opponents multi-goal leads every other night.
Sometimes the Caps come back. In just their second game of the year, they gave the Flames a 3-0 lead. Though Washington won in the shoutout, it took a lot of luck. Throughout October, Adam Oates maintained that win was the worst game of the season. Often, toss-ups don’t go their way.
There isn’t one specific thing to point as the root of these problems. The team doesn’t seem to lack energy early on, they just play poorly: bad passes, missed defensive assignments, soft goals. Overall suckage prevails over the Caps in the frame. Braden Holtby, for one, has called out the team’s preparation, saying the team was too loose before games. The Caps, however, have always been a relaxed team. Whether the team is winning the Presidents’ Trophy or getting their head coach fired, the boys can usually be spotted playing soccer and listening to Russian techno before a matchup.
“We can’t expect to win games if we’re down 3-0,” Brouwer concluded. “Whether it’s being more ready in warm-up, more crisp in warm-up, more crisp even before the game starts — we’ve got to find some way, because that’s been a big problem of ours all season long, is our starts. Getting down by goals, sometimes multiple goals, and we have the ability to come back in this room, but you’re not going to be able to do it every night.”