- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Say one thing for the Capitals as they continue to struggle at the start of the season: They are a perceptive bunch.

They know the product they’re putting on the ice right now is substandard.

“I don’t feel like we’re a very tough team to play against right now,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I don’t think we played very gritty and that’s the key for any team to be successful.”

Alzner spoke in the quiet of the locker room Wednesday not long after the Caps absorbed a 2-0 loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center. The same Rangers who came in 1-4, who had been outscored 20-5 in their past three games.

Washington fell to 2-5 on the season, 1-3 on its current five-game homestand. The Caps are struggling on defense and struggling on offense. They got 22 shots against the Rangers, only six in the second period.

The Caps have trouble clearing their zone.

“We have to take care of our own end better,” coach Adam Oates said. “Obviously, we want to score. We want to get down the ice, but until we cross the blue line, we can’t.”

Said Alzner, “They outworked us. We got caught up there for minute-plus shifts. That’s hard. It doesn’t have to always be clean. It just has to be out. If it doesn’t get out, you spend a minute and a half in your zone.”

When they do get it in their own end, the Caps have trouble there, too. They had a 5-on-3 advantage for 55 seconds against New York and didn’t score, though Joel Ward should have when he whiffed with an empty net in front of him.

“No second, third opportunities,” winger Troy Brouwer said. “We’re unable to sustain a whole lot of pressure in the offensive zone. We have to find ways to recover pucks, find ways to get in, make better reads, do a better job retrieving them and protecting the puck so we can have some zone time.

“We’re too easy, we’re too passive in the offensive zone when we take a shot or get an opportunity. When they had success tonight, they got shots from the point, got rebounds, threw them back to the point, got more shots, making it tough for [goalkeeper Braden] Holtby to see … maybe we have to model our offense after them a little.”

That might not be a great approach, considering the Rangers only scored two goals and now have just 11 on the season in six games. But it is a telling sentiment that they looked quite good in comparison to Wednesday’s opponent.

“We’re making misreads, or maybe even guessing out there to where the puck is going to be on the ice,” Brouwer said. “I think we’re working hard. We just have to focus and play better as a three-man unit up front. Sometimes we’re waiting to be the shooter rather than getting in the pile and recovering pucks to make opportunities.”

The Caps have a five-game road trip coming up after Saturday’s home game against Columbus and it isn’t too early to wonder if some new faces will make that trip. Washington needs to do something to shake things up. The website TSN.ca reported the Edmonton Oilers are searching for a goalie, and Washington’s Michal Neuvirth could be a target. The Caps sure could use another experienced defenseman, among other things.

Maybe some other moves are on the horizon, something to alter the vibe of a team that is in need of some kind of alteration.

Is it time for a shakeup?

“I don’t know. No player really wants something like that, you never really know what that means,” Alzner said. “If that’s what it needs, that’s what it needs, I guess. We want to win and we want to change things around. It’s never fun to lose games.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, what’s going on. I guess everybody has to be a little more responsible here, and we have to take a look in the mirror.”

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