TORONTO — This hasn't just been a losing streak for the Capitals. It has been getting worse each game.
"It's four games," coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday night following Washington's 7-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. "It went from losing in a shootout to controlling the game until the last 30 seconds to losing fairly bad to getting smoked."
Not the kind of progression the Capitals want, as they've gone 1-4-1 in their past six and 3-7-1 in the past 11. The problem, players said, was a penchant for individualized play rather than sticking to the team concept that paved the way to a 7-0-0 start.
"It's not the team with the best players that always wins, it's the team that plays best together," veteran forward Brooks Laich said. "At times [Saturday night], we were disconnected, we were on an island a little bit. When we're successful, it's all about support, short passes and five-man units on the ice."
After each loss, the talk was about getting back to "the basics," such as playing sound defensively and making life hard on opponents. Forward Troy Brouwer talked after the ugly loss to Toronto about the Capitals finding themselves.
The way Brouwer defined "finding ourselves" had to do with everyone doing his job in order to make the team start clicking again.
"If you're a goal scorer, you have and try to score goals. If you're a penalty-killer you do your best to kill penalties. If you finish checks, finish checks," Brouwer said. "Everyone's got to make sure that they're playing within themselves and not trying to do too much."
All told, Washington was outscored 16-3 on its 0-3 road trip. The numbers produced by the special teams are especially staggering; the power play went 0-for-13, and the penalty kill gave up five power-play goals. When that trend is ongoing, and discipline doesn't follow, it generates more problems
Not being a cohesive group seems even more troubling.
"I think guys are working. We're just not working in the right direction, not working together," defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "We're spread apart. We're not really supporting each other; we're leaving guys out to dry a little bit. We're just making bad decisions."
A players-only meeting held during Friday's unplanned off-day didn't have the desired result, and Saturday night left the Caps with even more questions and fewer answers.
But getting back to playing together and being in sync is a top priority for Monday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes and beyond.
"We've got to put it behind us and move on really fast here," Wideman said, "because we've got some games coming up, and we've got to stop this now."
Before it's too late and changes become the result.
Notes: The Capitals recalled blue-chip defensive prospect Dmitry Orlov on Sunday, and he's expected to make his NHL debut against Phoenix. ... Boudreau acknowledged forward Alexander Semin could be a healthy scratch based on Sunday's practice.
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