- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2019

The All-Star break is coming at the right time for the Washington Capitals.

The team is in the midst of a midseason swoon that has everyone wondering what the heck has happened to the defending champions.

The story behind the collapse? Simple as one, two, three (plus four, five, six and seven). Seven reasons for seven consecutive losses.

Ice-cold Holtby

Braden Holtby suffered an eye injury nearly two weeks ago, and since then, the Capitals goaltender hasn’t been able to stop the puck consistently. In four games since the injury, Holtby’s save percentage is just .843.

Backup dropoff

Unfortunately for the Capitals, Holtby’s backup, Pheonix Copley, hasn’t been much better. Copley allowed seven goals in one game during a 7-2 loss to Nashville.

Passive Kuznetsov

General manager Brian MacLellan said earlier this month that Evgeny Kuznetsov could be among the league’s best “if he chose to be.” Well, can he choose to be now? Kuznetsov, who has two goals in January, was briefly demoted to the third line during this skid.

Birds and bad mojo

Think of the most troubling ways to lose, and the Capitals have probably done it. Brutal collapses (San Jose scoring with .9 left to force overtime) and other moments (Columbus players imitating Kuznetsov’s bird celebration) have led to frustration.

Cold sticks and dry spells

This hasn’t been a case for the last few games, but Washington’s offense went through a dry spell — scoring just four goals in four games at the beginning of this streak. They were shut out Jan. 18 against the New York Islanders.

Wrong moves

Mental mistakes have also been costly. In a 7-6 overtime loss on Tuesday, Alex Ovechkin attempted a reckless shot on an empty net instead of making a safe pass. San Jose blocked the shot and scored to tie the game with less than a second left.

The buttons that go unpushed

Let’s slow down before pegging this collapse on first-year coach Todd Reirden. But NBC’s Keith Jones suggested Wednesday the Capitals “don’t win a Cup if Barry Trotz doesn’t push all the right buttons last year.” With Trotz gone, Reirden will have to find the right mix to turn things around. Maybe this is part of the learning curve.

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