Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle had no answer for why the dip keeps happening. This season, the Capitals have often been outworked in the second period.
In the first, the Capitals start strong. And in the third, they often finish stronger But when it comes to the second period, the Capitals usually need a wakeup call to get them back in the game. The lull has been one of the team’s most consistent problems.
Through 48 games, opponents have taken 58 more shots on goal in the second than the Capitals. All those extra shots have translated into a negative goal differential for the Capitals in the second, too.
The Capitals are 3-11-1 when trailing after two periods.
“We’re trying to clean that up,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “I think it’s been our biggest hole the last three years. We’ve been a pretty good first period team. The second period, not so much. And then really good in the third.”
Trotz said the reason the problem persists has to do with the team’s mindset. In the past, Trotz said the Capitals, given their regular season success, believed they were capable of coming back in any game.
But in each of Trotz’ three previous years with the Capitals, Washington finished with a positive goal differential for the second period. Last season, for instance, the Capitals outscored opponents by seven goals and outshot them by 129.
This season, the Capitals are being outscored by two goals in the second. That’s not a significant difference, but it’s the only period where the Capitals have a negative goal differential.
Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said the second period is “magnified” because of the long change, which is when the teams switch ends and have to skate farther away from their bench to defend its own net.
Niskanen said there is more emphasis in making line changes in the second.
“You always get tired pretty fast because of that long change,” Niskanen said. “You’re either giving up a chance or getting caught shorthanded. … We’ve talked about it, trying to improve it, but easier said than done.”
Put aside statistics — the Capitals often just look flat in the middle period, with other teams controlling the puck more often. That happened as recently as Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, where Trotz said the Capitals let up the first eight minutes of the period.
So how do the Capitals go about fixing the problem? Beagle said the Capitals have to do a better job of playing the whole 60 minutes. Being smarter with the puck would also help, as Trotz said poor puck management has resulted in many of the goals allowed.
More production would also help. Lately, the Capitals have also been in a scoring drought — Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, for example, has just one goal in his last 10 games.
“We need some guys to get a little bit hot,” Trotz said. “I like our group in terms of that, but we need some of our [guys], not just on or two. But I’d like to see the entire group get hot and just play well, which you’ve seen us play this year and previous years through pretty good stretches where we’re feeling it and doing all those things and we’re producing.”
• Matthew Paras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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