- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just because the Washington Capitals got a day off in Toronto doesn’t mean they took a day off from trying to snap out of their losing ways. Everybody knew it was coming, one player said, and so a players-only meeting ensued.

“We always have to talk to the guys and know what they think and talk through stuff,” center Marcus Johansson said. “You can’t just let it go and think everything’s going to solve itself. I think we have to do it within the team. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.”

Players-only meetings probably happen more often than they’re ever talked about, but with the Caps mired in a slump that was, to that point, 3-6-1in their last 10 games,  this one had serious meaning.

“A lot of stuff was said that needed to be said,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I think guys are better understanding for where everybody is coming from.”

What needed to be said, then? What solutions were developed?

“We talk as a group a couple days ago. It’s just between me and the team,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I don’t think I have to tell you guys what we were talking about.”

Details were hard to come by, though the team themes this season have included accountability, individual responsibility and a commitment to defensive hockey. Matt Hendricks talked about a desire to do the little things like getting pucks deep and getting in on the forecheck to make things difficult on opponents.

But it might not be as important what was said as much as who said it. According to one player, 10 or 11 different guys talked during the meeting as opposed to the usual three or four. That shows a depth of leadership and more.

“It shows all opinions matter in here,” Hendricks said. “We want to know what everyone feels, because it’s the only way you fix problems is for everyone to be OK with the way things are going.”

The Caps aren’t — and they’re not satisfied, according to Troy Brouwer and others. But the meeting didn’t have the desired effect, and the next game out was a 7-1 loss to the Maple Leafs.

“It’s a business meeting, just like you’d have in any type of job. If things aren’t going the way you want them to go, you’ve got to figure out ways to turn them around,” Hendricks said. “That’s kind of what it was — a brainstorming activity, we talked and it obviously didn’t work too well.”

Players noted that it was beneficial and necessary no matter what, but that’s not the kind of thing that can happen after every loss. Instead, the Caps need to find another way to get back on a winning track.

“Just keep knocking on the door trying to figure out ways,” Hendricks said. “We’ve been through this before, we can get through it again.”

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

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