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After consecutive regulation losses, Capitals face questions about last season's swoon

After consecutive regulation losses, Capitals face questions about last season's swoon

With Thursday’s 4-2 loss in San Jose, the Capitals have now suffered consecutive regulation losses for the first time in more than three months.

The defeat also dropped the Caps’ record to 5-4-1 since the team returned from the bye week.

Their average goals per game since the five-day hiatus? A pedestrian 2.2 per contest.

Indeed, it’s been an unsettling stretch for the NHL’s top team, which encountered a similar malaise late last season. But, according to Coach Barry Trotz and his players, there's no sense of panic or déjà vu spreading over the dressing room.

“We haven’t lost two in a row for a while, so it does seem a little awkward,” Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged to reporters at SAP Center. “But this group is great at responding, and we’ll have to go into L.A. and see if we can respond.”

Asked if he sees any similarities between last year’s soft stretch run and the current downturn, Trotz said: “No. I think this team is a little different. I think last year when we had such a lead, we just sorta parked it. I don’t think you can say we’re doing that. From our standpoint we’re in a race with a lot of good teams in the Metro right now. So, I don’t think that’s a concern at all.”

A year ago, the Caps went 10-4-6 in their final 20 games. This year, the Caps are 2-2-0 in the first four games of that 20-game sprint to the finish.

“It hasn’t been [like] how we went into the break,” winger Brett Connolly said. “We were humming pretty good. We’ve got a new player in [Kevin] Shattenkirk and [Andre Burakovsky] goes down. So we’re still finding our game a little bit. If you ask anybody, I don’t think we’re happy with how we’ve come out of the break. We’re looking to fix that. This is not our style. …We just gotta take a deep breath. We’re still in first place. We still have a great hockey team.”

The Caps’ three-game California trip continues Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings are battling for their playoff lives, sitting a point out of the second wild card spot in the West.

Washington, meantime, will be looking to avoid losing three straight games in regulation for the first time since Feb. 2015 as its captain and leading goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, searches for his first goal since Feb. 19, nine games ago.

“We don’t want to lose three in a row,” Connolly said. “L.A. is a big game. …Now we need to go into L.A. and beat a good hockey team.”

Defenseman Karl Alzner acknowledged that a few recent opponents have played with more desperation than the Caps have brought to the rink. But that said, Alzner scoffed at the suggestion that last year’s late-season swoon is happening all over again.

“No, not at all,” he said. “It’s a different team. That’s the thing that everyone always wonders. It’s just coincidence right now. We all know that we can turn it up and things will be better. This is a tough stretch of the year. These are good teams that we’re playing right now and [their] fight is a little bit more intense than our fight is right now. When it comes to time to really show our true colors, I think we’re going to show them.”  

MORE CAPITALS: Prospect report: Caps boast 4 of NHL's top 100 prospects

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Maples Leafs interested in trading for former Capital Nate Schmidt, per new report

Maples Leafs interested in trading for former Capital Nate Schmidt, per new report

Nate Schmidt, freshly claimed by the Las Vegas Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft, is now drawing interest from the Toronto Maple Leafs, according to a report from TVA's Louis Jean. 

Given the wheeling and dealing around the expansion draft, it's certainly possible the Knights chose Schmidt with plans of sending him to Toronto all along. 

But the eyebrow-raising part of this report is the supposed asking price – a second-round pick. The Capitals almost certainly could have negotiated a better deal with Las Vegas to keep Schmidt. 

George McPhee, general manager of the Knights, signed Schmidt as an undrafted free agent in his previous role as Caps GM. 

McPhee was quoted before the expansion draft as saying other teams could negotiate to hold onto their players. And Schmidt's potential to be a top-four defenseman as soon as next year should have incentivized Washington to do whatever it took to secure his future in D.C. 

So either this report is questionable or the Capitals weren't willing to give up more than Toronto (a second-round pick) to keep Schmidt. 

MORE CAPITALS: Mahoney suggests Djoos could compete for roster spot

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast - Say it ain't so!

Capitals Faceoff Podcast - Say it ain't so!

JJ Regan and Jill Sorenson react to Nate Schmidt getting claimed by Vegas and talk about what that means for the Caps' plans this offseason. Plus, Tarik El-Bashir calls in from Chicago to get his reaction from the team and talk about what their plan is for the upcoming entry draft.

Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play and give us a good review! Maybe we'll even read it on the air. For the latest Caps coverage be sure to follow @CSNCapitals@TarikCSN and @JJReganCSN on Twitter.

More Capitals: NHL releases Capitals' 2017-18 regular season schedule