- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2011

DENVER — Three goals. Three games. One win thrown into the mix to engender some optimism, but the Washington Capitals seem to be lacking answers for what’s wrong on offense.

The talent is there. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin make up what should be a dangerous top line, plus offense is deep throughout the lineup. But what the past few games — and especially Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche — have taught the Caps is that scoring isn’t as much a product of talent as it is hard work and some good fortune.

“I’m not too sure exactly what it is. I think we’ve just got to let some go in for us instead of always making it happen,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It means just throwing pucks at the net and having one go in.”

The Caps are 4-5 under coach Dale Hunter, perhaps not the drastic change they were hoping for. And while problems have varied from a stagnant power play to subpar goaltending, the issue du jour is just not putting the puck in the net.

That lack of scoring is evident on the power play, which seems disjointed. Much the bigger deal is five-on-five situations, during which the Caps struggled to even produce scoring chances.

They left with a loss because the offense wasn’t clicking.

“It was a tight game out there. Basically it came down to who scored the second goal was going to win the game because it was so tight,” Hunter said. “They played tight, and we played tight and they got the second goal - a slap shot from the point - and that’s the difference.”

And while Hunter said the Capitals had chances, they also suffered through a third-period drought of more than 12 minutes without a shot, something that’s hard to accept when a team is trailing and pressing for any kind of offense. But when they did get some time in the offensive zone, they couldn’t convert.

“I think we missed the net maybe a few too many times. I don’t think we’re attacking the net as much as we can,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “When shots come from the point, we need to really get into those tough areas to score goals.”

That goes to the idea of being hard to play against — providing some punishment in front of the net and not being afraid to take some in the event it leads to a goal.

Recent offensive outbursts, such as the four-goal effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 9 and the five-goal night against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 7, have buoyed the Caps.

But the recent trend of not lighting the lamp has proved difficult for stars to accept.

“When you have a chance to just score the goals, you have to score goals,” Ovechkin said. “It’s your job.”

It’s a job that hasn’t come up with positive returns in recent weeks. Since Hunter took over, the Capitals have managed more than one goal in only four of nine games.

Ovechkin said the next step includes watching video to figure out what to do on odd-man rushes and other plays that should lead to quality scoring chances.

And while some of it is one inch or bounce, the players also understand that getting back on an offensive roll can happen the same way this slump has gone on, by things snowballing.

“[We need to] get some confidence built up and then hopefully more will come,” Alzner said. “It’s a little bit of a concern, but it happens.”

It’s not early in the season anymore, which means anything that is causing a losing pattern is a big deal that needs to be corrected.

Hunter pointed to practice as the place to improve, but since the NHL schedule affords little time for that, the Capitals need to get on track when it counts.

Said Ovechkin: “It’s a hockey game, and you have to kind of be smart and read the game what you have to do out there.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide