Tommy Keeler Jr.: Struggles continue for Caps

Tommy Keeler Jr.

I know it’s still early in the season, but bad signs are everywhere for Washington Capitals fans.

The Capitals are 10-10 with four overtime losses in 24 games (so basically 10-14). I would say that’s mediocre, but to me below .500 is even worse than mediocre.

There is still time for the Capitals to turn things around, but playing with a sense of urgency might be warranted.

Under first-year head coach Barry Trotz, things were supposed to be different this season. He was supposed to fix Washington’s defensive woes, and even make star Alex Ovechkin into a better defensive and all-around player.

So far none of that has happened. Ovechkin leads the team with 12 goals, pretty much what you’d expect. He also has nine assists. His plus/minus ratio is -1, not what you really want from your star player, and pretty much like it has been in past seasons.

It seems like the same old Ovechkin and the same old Capitals.

Trotz was supposed to be a defensive-minded guy, but so far it’s not working at all. The Capitals are 21st in goals against, allowing 2.8 goals per game. They are 29th in penalty kill percentage (74.7).

The offense has still been solid, ranking 11th (2.8) in goals per game, and second in power play percentage (28.4).

Washington has been up and down all season. The Capitals have been just as bad home or away.

Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in scoring and has 20 assists to go with five goals. Defenseman John Carlson also has 14 assists and has certainly given the team a spark this year.

One definite positive has been that the Capitals have been mostly injury free. Of course, the one guy who has been injured and is currently on injured reserve is defenseman Mike Green. He is a veteran they were counting on to shore up the defense.

The Capitals did a have a stretch of great defensive play earlier this season. From Nov. 11 to Nov. 22, the Capitals didn’t allow a single power-play goal. They were the only team in the NHL during that span to not allow a power-play goal, and the Capitals have been trying to be more aggressive on defense.

However, since Nov. 22 the defense has begun to unravel. In a 4-3 loss to Vancouver on Monday, the Capitals gave up three power-play goals. They gave up six power-play goals in two games.

The fact that they had the hot streak in November may show what the Capitals can do. If they can do it for an 11-game stretch, why can’t they do it for a whole season? Anytime there is a change in a program you can expect some ebbs and flows. The Capitals are being caught in being too aggressive or not aggressive enough. They’ve resorted back to their passive ways, when it’s clear that being aggressive earlier in the season worked.

It takes time, and the Capitals still have enough to right the ship. If the playoffs started today the Capitals would be on the outside looking in, but they are only five points out of the last spot. They have time, but the last thing you want to do is to dig a really deep hole — one you may not be able to dig out of.

One of the biggest things the Capitals may need going forward is simply some momentum. Their biggest win streak this year has been three games. Even when they were playing better against the power play, they went 3-3. They need to put a streak together to make a real run to get into the postseason.

I’m not sure too many questions have been answered so far about the new coach and the changes. As the season goes on we’ll get more answers, and Capitals fans hope they will be the right ones.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com