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Mama said there’ll be days like this, but there have been far too many of them in the first 10 games of the season. Oates, in praising the Caps’ play of late, has made it clear it’s the process, not the result, that he’s concerned about.

But maintaining confidence isn’t just hard on the players.

“It’s tough to keep our confidence up,” Oates said, referring to the coaching staff. “It’s part of the job, and we’ve got to figure out ways to get the guys to understand that you’re doing a lot of good things, and hopefully it’ll turn our way.”

Oates said Monday he felt as if his team was going in the right direction, but on Tuesday night the Caps looked like a team lost without a compass. There were elements of strong play in fits and spurts, but that’s not inconsistent with the past week or so.

“For minutes at a time the details aren’t there, and that sums it up right there,” Alzner said. “Five bad minutes, 10 bad minutes, maybe, and the details kill us. It looks like we have to play full 60-minute games all the time. We got away with it a bunch of times last year, but this year it doesn’t seem to be that way.”

At this point the Caps can’t get away with anything, not even an above-average game against a mediocre Maple Leafs team. The dreadful start to this season is beginning to test the young coach’s vocabulary, if not his resolve.

“You run out of cliches to say to the guys, obviously,” Oates said.

Crabb even found himself noting how much he repeated himself. Over and over again, the same troublesome trends and the same search for answers.

“Like I’ve said I don’t know how many times before, it’s little mistakes that are adding up and costing us the game in the end,” Crabb said.

Added Hendricks: “I really don’t have the answers. I’m having a hard time with this.”