The Washington Capitals went on a two game road trip this week, starting it in Nashville, TN versus the Predators and ending it in Denver, CO versus the Avalanche. Both games were an absolute disaster and is hands down the worst road trip the Caps have had in a very long time.
The Caps first visited the Music City, where the Nashville Predators have a very strong fan base (one of my personal favorites). Everyone was excited for this matchup because defenseman Matt Niskanen was returning from being on IR, a key part to the Caps’ defensive core. Off the bat, Nashville began to reign shot after shot down on Braden Holtby. It seemed as though every shot they took was on net, being placed in the perfect spot and/or being deflected. Holtby made every save he could have, but with Nashville out shooting Washington 12-0 only ten minutes into the game with barely any team support, even the best crack at some point. Nothing clicked for the Caps until the second and third periods where TJ Oshie and Alex Chiasson scored, but too little too late. After Nashville scored their sixth goal in the second period on Holtby, he finished out the remainder of period and was replaced by Philipp Grubauer, who did not allow a single goal in the third. Washington went on to lose 6-3, also losing rookie defenseman Christian Djoos to an upper-body injury.
Washington travelled to Denver in hopes to recover from the slaughter in Nashville, but would only be unprepared for the young Colorado team’s fast-paced style. One of the biggest surprises was Coach Trotz’s decision to make Jakub Vrana a healthy scratch, promote Brett Connolly to the third line, and activate Nathan Walker. Grubauer would get the start this game because of his performance in Nashville. This did not stagger the Avalanche for they opened up the scoring only 14 seconds into the game with a snipe from Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog, who would go on to score his first career hat trick in the third period. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Connolly were the only ones to score for the Caps. Grubauer could not hold off the young and proficient Avs team as they would crush the Caps with a 6-2 blowout. The entire team looked mentally and physically drained after the final horn, basically recapping the road trip for all its viewers.
This road trip was absolutely horrendous to watch. The entire organization, from the coaching staff and down, needs to take a hard look in the mirror and reevaluate themselves. There was a consistent lack of effort from the entire team. Not enough battles being contested in the corners nor along the boards. What I noticed was the breakout and the entry into the offensive zone was poorly executed every time, which resulted in turnovers and fatigue. I trust in Coach Trotz to make the necessary changes and send the right messages to the right people who need them in order for the Caps to start clicking again, or at least experiment with the different combinations for different results to start producing a sixty minute effort from the players that want to play. It won’t be as cute and pretty as it once was last season, but enough to grind out some wins in order to make the post-season.