After slow start, Capitals must play desperate but not panic

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“It’s not frightful yet, but it’s getting up there,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We’re not in the playoffs right now. We got to start thinking about that. It sounds funny two games into the season, but we have to start thinking about winning games, getting points and getting into the playoffs.”

Playoffs? Then-coach Dale Hunter started using the “P” word last February to describe the heightened importance of each game.

One advantage now is the Caps don’t have much time to dwell on losses or dwell on such hyperbole. The disadvantage is that with limited time, Oates has to juggle more teaching while keeping his players fresh.

The Caps on Tuesday began a stretch of seven games in 11 days.

“We got a lot of hockey in a short span of time,” Oates said. “[I’m] just trying to identify conditioning versus fatigue.”

It’s hard to find the perfect formula amid difficult variables. But when players watched video Wednesday, they were shown that many mistakes had to do with execution, not the system.

“Everybody knows how to play hockey here,” Alzner said. “We can blame learning a system as long as we want, but it’s us now.”

Fixing it could be a long, methodical process, but the key is to not let many potential points get away before everything clicks.

“There are a lot of intangibles that we have to work through as far as new coach, new systems, things like that,” Brouwer said. “We have to be playing good hockey now. Whether it’s our effort needs to be better, our details need to be better, we need to pick it up.”

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