The Washington Capitals will come into play against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday losers of four games in a row. Over the past couple of weeks, the team has experienced a rash of new injuries to key players.
When defenseman Dmitry Orlov went down with a lower-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes it put over $40 million worth of salary cap on the shelf. However, Caps head coach Peter Laviolette isn’t ready to put much blame on those injuries in regard to the team’s recent run of tough results.
With Orlov absent and not practicing the list of Capitals injuries currently looks like this:
- F Beck Malenstyn, finger, 6-8 weeks
- F TJ Oshie, lower-body, “indefinite”
- F Tom Wilson, ACL, expected return around December
- F Connor Brown, ACL, likely out for season
- F Nicklas Backstrom, hip resurfacing, timeline unknown
- F Carl Hagelin, eye/hip, timeline unknown
- D John Carlson, lower-body, day-to-day
- D Dmitry Orlov, lower-body, day-to-day
This scenario is not something new to Laviolette’s tenure in charge of the Caps. The team faced a similar injury crisis to begin last season. In that case, they were able to fight through it and even sit near the top of the league for the majority of the first half of their schedule. Those early banked points allowed the team to coast into a playoff spot come spring.
“I’m kinda at where I’ve been for the last week or so,” Laviolette said Monday. “I feel like we’ve played well enough to win games and we haven’t won them. There’s things that we can do better to push that to a win. We’re in position to win them. We’re in a good position to win them and we haven’t gotten it done. Maybe if it turned into a win last year, it’s turned into a loss in the last four games so we’ll just keep working at it.”
One of the major issues the team faces due to the absences of players like Oshie, Wilson, Brown, Backstrom, and Carlson is the inability to add to leads with multiple goals. The Caps currently sit just 28th in the NHL in terms of goals per game at 2.69. For comparison’s sake, they finished last season tenth in the league with 3.29 goals per game.
“The bottom line is the goals have been low,” Laviolette said. “We’ve been in position with a fairly low goals against whereas if we scored more goals [we’d be winning more]. It’s not just about making sure it’s clean defensively because you’re not going to play a perfect game defensively. There’s good players that you’re playing against. It’s never going to be perfect but what we can do is continue to push offensively to try and get that third goal, get that fourth goal and that’s where we haven’t gotten it done.”
During this four-game losing skid, the Capitals have not lost a game by more than two goals, and the only game they did lose by two goals featured a very late empty netter from the Detroit Red Wings. Otherwise, they have dropped two in overtime or shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights and another in the last minute of regulation against the Arizona Coyotes.
“We’re in the position to win hockey games,” Laviolette continued. “If we’re sitting here at 8-0 night after night, I doubt you’d get the ‘woe is me’, but I don’t feel like that. I don’t think the players feel like that. I feel like we’ve had the games in our hands and there’s things that we can do to take an overtime loss, a shootout loss, or a loss and push it to a win. The games have been close, they’ve been tight, and they haven’t gone our way. We’ve got to continue to work to push them our way.
“We don’t talk about a player being out of the lineup or another guy being gone,” the bench boss finished. “We talk about how we’re going to win and guys have worked towards that. We’ve got to push through that. Get it done.”
The team’s next stretch of games is not an easy one. They start Monday against a high-flying Oilers team that sees Connor McDavid score at will, play their hated rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, have a home-and-home two-game slate against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and then finish with a road date in Florida against the Panthers.
As of Monday before that game against Edmonton, the Caps sit sixth in the Metropolitan Division with twelve points from thirteen games.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB