Remember the old hockey adage: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work?
Feel free to apply it to these Capitals.
The Capitals got out-worked in nearly every aspect of Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the visiting Montreal Canadiens and will wake up Friday morning as the only team in the Eastern Conference without a point.
“Embarrassing is almost the right term right now,” Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. “Pathetic is probably a better one.
“I feel bad for the fans. I’d like to finish a game with at least 50 percent of the fans still in the stands. Their reaction is completely warranted, booing us. We haven’t earned any of their respect. We haven’t earned any of their passion. We’ve got to turn this around and we’ve got to do it fast.”
The Caps are 0-3 for the first time since 1993 when they started the season with six straight losses. That team played 10 games over .500 the rest of the way and made it to the second round of the playoffs.
Through three games the Caps have allowed seven power-play goals on 18 chances. They’ve also been outhit 65-58 and have received zero goals from Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green.
Add it up and you have what first-year coach Adam Oates called a “fragile” team with a questionable work ethic.
“I would say some of the mistakes are pure effort,” Oates said. “It’s very upsetting. I’m not pushing the panic button but it’s obviously upsetting.”
Asked how he gets that to change, Oates said it’s got to come from within each player.
“I’m not a believer in the Knute Rockne speech, I’m not,” he said. “You’ve got to be a pro and you’ve got to do your job. You’ve got to show up for work.”
The Capitals will get that chance Friday night in New Jersey against Oates’ former employers. The Devils are 2-0 and have allowed just one goal under head coach Pete DeBoer.
Brouwer did not have enough fingers on both hands when he began assessing how many of his teammates did not bring their hard hats to Thursday night’s game.
He singled out Mathieu Perreault, goal-scorer Joey Crabb and Matt Hendricks as the only three Capitals who “showed up.”
The Capitals’ offensive troubles begin with their top line. Against the Canadiens Alex Ovechkin started on the right wing with center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Wojtek Wolski. By the third period Ovechkin was back at his natural left wing spot and Crabb was on the right side, with Backstrom in the middle.
“Of course you want them to produce every night and they play a lion’s share of the minutes. So we want that right now. I know [left wing] is what [Ovechkin] is used to. I still think he should be a right winger but I also want him to be happy and get something out of his game. It was more to get a spark for him and get him going.”
While Oates was dismantling the top line, assistant coach Calle Johansson broke up the top defensive unit of Karl Alzner and John Carlson, putting Carlson with Tom Poti and Alzner with Mike Green.
“They’ve been married to each other for a long time now,” Oates said, “and I kind of wanted to split them up. The score kind of forced us to do that.”
Alzner said he had no problem with the switch.
“I was saying to Calle, it’s not going the right way for both if us. I mentioned to Calle between the second and third, ‘We’ve got to do something here. Either switch or take [our minutes] down because we weren’t contributing anything good for the team.”