The Capitals, Presidents' Trophy winners in 2009--10 and runners-up a year ago, have won just 11 of 25 games in 2012 and through Sunday were mired in ninth place in the East. More disturbing, they sit third in the lowly Southeast Division, in which not one of the five teams has a plus goal differential. On a recent road swing Washington lost three straight by the combined score of 12--3.
Reports out of the nation's capital depict a team that is coming apart. Last month, some of the club's internal grousing got a public airing when associate goalie coach (and former Capitals netminder) Olie Kolzig said that he thought the team's premier player, Alex Ovechkin (right), had become "wrapped up" in his "rock star status," a notion with which general manager George McPhee later agreed.
Ovechkin, who missed one game last week with a lower-body injury, has had his struggles this season; he has just one game-winning goal and is on pace for his fewest since he scored five as a rookie in 2005--06. And he certainly misses center Nicklas Backstrom, who has been out since suffering a concussion on Jan. 3. But a closer look at the numbers suggests that Washington's troubles are bigger than the Great Eight.
March 5, 2012
Games in which the Caps have trailed after the first period; only Ottawa has fallen into more opening intermission holes. During the Presidents' Trophy--winning season of 2009--10, Washington trailed after one period just 17 times, second-best in the NHL.
Shots per game by Washington, which ranks 23rd in the league. Even worse, the shoot-first Ovechkin ranks seventh in the NHL in the same category. The rest of the team simply isn't putting shots on net.
Eastern Conference--high opening goals allowed by Washington, which surrendered the first score in eight of its first 13 games last month, a span during which the club was outscored 35--30.