Per the DC Sports Bog by way of the Mike Wise Show, Ted Leonsis has said that he believes the Capitals are "unconsciously pacing themselves for the playoffs." This is coming off a 3-0 shutout lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second time in four games, but it seems like an interesting thing to say about a team, who last year was ripping it up in the Goals-For column.
We've heard this year that the Caps are going through some changes after losing in seven games to the more defensive minded Montreal Canadiens last playoffs; but at the same time-- the frustration coming from the fan base or "bandwagon," if you will, pretty much echos what some pundits have been wondering. The scoring for the Caps is down to 2.86 goals a game this year (as of the 13th of January), which is well off the pace of 3.88 they had all of last year. And it should be a bit of caution that Alex Ovechkin hasn't be as dynamic as he has in the past, especially with things going around about injuries and equipment failure. Why Nicklas Backstrom hasn't been as good or how Alex Semin just disappeared have come up as well, but this just shows that the problem isn't the goaltending, which many people are saying it is. In fact, the Caps defense and goaltending is solid, as they are 10th in least goals-against this season so far.
The questions that remains are how patient can the fans be when it comes to the Caps not being the same team they were in the past couple of years?? There has to be a bit of patience that needs to be given because when you change from a run-and-gun system to a more reserved, laid-back system; it'll be noticeable, but in the long-run, it'll probably help them out.
However, a follow-up to that question is how long will it take for the Caps to adjust to the system to somewhere near perfection?? Are some of the big guys a bit gunshy when it comes to playing again?? When you look at the numbers, it almost could seem that there's a struggle and the team isn't getting the bounces they should or have gotten last year, which could be true. Yet, with this team being still a bit young and not being used to changing systems as quickly as it's being presented. It could be a case that someone like Ovechkin or Backstrom wanting to be more active in the offense, but for some reason they don't want to get the third-degree when they get back to the bench, so they don't push the play as much as they like to.
Granted, all of this doesn't help out the fact the Caps power-play continues to struggle from the 2010 Playoffs, as they are 17th in the league in power play percentage (18%) and tied for 16 at 29 power play goals. It's not the worst, but it could certainly be better with the weapons they have with the extra-man. It could be psychosomatic and just needs a change here and there, but that could go back to the not-getting-bounces issue, as well.
In any case, the Caps are in fifth place, and barring another long-time losing streak should be in the playoffs-- though nothing is guaranteed at all in the Eastern Conference. While they may be unconsciously prepping themselves, they have to consciously realize that adaptation needs to happen sooner or later or they will do all that preparation for the golf-course as the playoffs start. Granted, it's easy to say that on this side, but at the same time-- should be brought up rather than turning a blind eye to it.