HARRIS: Shortened preseason a bigger deal for Caps than most teams

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The penalty kill is a mess. Through the first five periods of the season, the Caps were in nine short-handed situations. They gave up goals on five of them. The only word for that is ugly.

The defense, in particular, seems almost lost. John Carlson was caught out of position several times against Winnipeg. Against Tampa, the Lightning camped out players right in front of Caps keeper Braden Holtby way too often. He appeared to be screened on at least three of Tampa’s six goals.

Aside from that brief moment of beauty on their first goal against Winnipeg, the Caps’ offense hasn’t been brag-worthy either.

Early in the third period, Wolski whiffed on a shot and then got knocked on his can. Through the first two periods, Backstrom won only five of 17 faceoffs. He’s usually much better than that, and he has to be as the first-line center. Oates called out Marcus Johansson, who is on the first line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, in his postgame media session for “not skating.” Johansson played less than half as much as his linemates.

The Caps play at home again Thursday. And again Friday on the road. And back home Sunday. The games are coming fast and furious. A bad start can become a terrible start in no time.

“There’s 46 games to go. There’s plenty of points to be had,” Hendricks said. “We just need to get this train going in the right direction.”

Quickly.

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