Brouwer on Caps' start: 'The grace period is gone'

Brouwer on Caps' start: 'The grace period is gone'
January 22, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Adam Oates on Caps loss to Winnipeg

Troy Brouwer wasn’t running around the Capitals locker room warning everyone that the sky was falling after Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

But he was definitely passing out warning flares.

“The grace period is gone now,” Brouwer said after the Capitals dropped their first home opener since Oct. 6, 2000. “We need to win hockey games.”

Asked his level of concern just two games into the season, Brouwer replied:

“It’s not frightful yet, but it’s getting up there because we can’t keep dropping games like this, especially against divisional opponents. The playoffs are coming up so quickly. It sounds funny two games into the season but we have to start thinking about winning games, getting points and getting into the playoffs.”

It will be a long road if the Caps continue to take costly penalties, receive shaky goaltending and their highest-paid player does not score goals.

The Caps allowed first-period power-play goals to Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd to set the tone in the game. They’ve now allowed five power-play goals in 12 chances this season.

“We need to get back to the drawing board and figure it out,” said Matt Hendricks, who gave the Caps a 1-0 lead and got into two fights. “We need to be better at blocking shots.”

Braden Holtby also needs to be better. Three of the Jets’ four goals came off deflections but he had a clear view of Ladd’s power-play goal in the first period. Through two games Holtby has now allowed 10 goals on 73 shots and has lost back-to-back games for the first time in his NHL career.

But what may be the biggest concern for Caps fans is the fact that Alex Ovechkin has eight shots and no points through two games. Against the Jets he had six of his shots blocked and often drifted from the right wing to the left.

“Right now we just have to realize we have to score goals, me especially,” said Ovechkin. We know what we have to do.”

Oates said he will continue using Ovechkin on the right side because he believes it will eventually make him and the Capitals more dangerous.

“I thought he played fine on the right wing. I think he still ended up on the left side and had some rushes. Hopefully [I can keep him on the right wing] for a long time. I would like him to stay there. I know he wants success as well as we do.

“But it is a team game and he needs other guys on the team to help him. That’s why I was looking for a change. Marcus wasn’t skating.”

Oates pulled Marcus Johansson from the top line and replaced him with Hendricks, who responded with his first goal of the season.

Oates acknowledged that it will take some time for his system to work, but he laid much of the blame for the Caps’ slow start on conditioning.

“The guys didn’t look like they had much in the tank,” Oates said. “I’m sure that’s a product of this season and what happened [with the lockout] and our conditioning levels.”