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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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Game 73: Capitals vs. Blue Jackets date, time, how to watch, game thread

Game 73: Capitals vs. Blue Jackets date, time, how to watch, game thread

Washington defeated the hottest team in the NHL on Tuesday with a win over the Calgary Flames, but the Capitals face an even bigger matchup on Thursday as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus and the Caps are fighting for the top of the division to avoid a tougher first-round matchup in the playoffs. Kevin Shattenkirk will enter Thursday's game looking for his first goal as a Cap after his goal on Tuesday was reviewed and given to Nicklas Backstrom. Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, will be sporting some special skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET. (Capitals GameTime gets things started at 6:30 p.m. ET)

How to Watch: Capitals vs. Blue Jackets will be broadcast on CSN. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals vs. Blue Jackets game on CSN's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals (47-17-8) take on the Blue Jackets (47-19-6) Thursday, March 23 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Verizon Center.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUES JACKETS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Blue Jackets game will be broadcast on CSN. Capitals GameTime gets things started at 6:30 p.m. ET with Capitals Extra recapping the all the action following the game and Caps in 30 at 11 p.m. (CSN channel Finder)

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals-Blue Jackets game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, is available to stream live here through CSN's live stream page and is available to authenticated CSN Mid-Atlantic subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the projected lines based on Tuesday's game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Defense

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Kevin Shattenkirk

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches
Nate Schmidt, Taylor Chorney

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals Digital Producer JJ Regan and the CSN Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and CSN's Facebook page.

Keep up with all the action here with Capitals GameZone and join in on the conversation here with Capitals Pulse.

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Capitals' playoff opponent watch: Toronto jumps into wild card

Capitals' playoff opponent watch: Toronto jumps into wild card

In the final stretch of the season, it’s time to start projecting possible first round matchups for the Caps.

Washington still finds itself in a tight race for the top of the Metropolitan Division, but the Caps look like their are back on track after a recent slump and still hold first place.

As of right now the Caps would be playing: The Toronto Maple Leafs (81 points)

Caps’ record vs. Islanders this season: 1-1-0 (1 game remaining on April 4)

It’s hard to know what to expect from a young team like the Leafs when they reach the postseason. Toronto is way ahead of schedule with its rebuild and were not expected to reach the playoffs this year. Plus, with Mike Babcock behind the bench, this is a dangerous team. But considering the youth that makes up the roster, you have to expect them to hit the wall at some point. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Nikita Zaitsev, the young rookies that make up the core of his team have never played in an 82-game season before and there is no more physically grueling hockey league than the NHL. Sure, should the Leafs make the playoffs, they will be playing with house money and should be very loose, but how much will they really have left in the tank for a seven-game series?

RELATED: Shattenkirk still looking for first goal as a Cap after scoring change

Other possible playoff opponents

Pittsburgh Penguins (101 points)

Caps record vs. Penguins this season: 2-0-2

If you hated the NHL’s current playoff format before, just wait if we see a Washington-Pittsburgh series in the first round. We are headed for a photo finish in the Metropolitan Division between the Caps, Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. The two teams that lose that race will get to face one another in the first round. While the Caps have earned at least a point in each game against the Penguins this season, you can go ahead and throw the record out when it comes to these two teams. As difficult as it is to comprehend just how these two teams could open the playoffs against one another, this perhaps would not be the worst thing in the world. The Penguins are not a healthy team right now as they are dealing with several injuries to key players. For my money, however, I think the Caps would be better off watching Pittsburgh get further beaten up in a series with Columbus and then face the winner.

Columbus Blue Jackets (100 points)

Caps record vs. Blue Jackets this season: 1-1-1 (2 games remaining on March 23 and April 2)

If the Penguins do win the Metropolitan Division, Washington will face a John Tortorella-led Blue Jackets team. Columbus is not as good as they looked when they won 16 straight games earlier in the season, a win streak that was broken by the Caps in a 5-0 blowout, but to their credit they have kept pace with Washington and Pittsburgh to stay within striking distance of the top spot in the Metro. The biggest concern is goalie Sergei Bobrovsky who is making a case for the Vezina or the Hart with this play. He has a .931 save percentage and 2.04 GAA and is more than capable of leading the Blue Jackets deep into the playoffs.

Boston Bruins (82 points)

Caps’ record vs. Bruins this season: 2-0-0 (1 game remaining on April 8)

Boston is still clinging to third place in the Atlantic for now, but Toronto is hot on its heels and could well overtake the Bruins. Boston has lost three straight including a loss to the Leafs who could push the Bruins down into the wild card. This is not a wild card team to sleep on, however, as they boast one of the top offensive players and agitators in the NHL in Brad Marchand and a top netminder in Tuukka Rask.

New York Islanders (78 points)

Caps’ record vs. Islanders this season: 2-3-0

The Islanders have finally lost their grip on the wild card spot. They have lost four of their last five and it looks like the honeymoon period between the team and interim coach Doug Weight is now over. Does a team that looked like one of the worst in the Eastern Conference for much of the season have enough steam to battle back into the wild card?

Tampa Bay Lightning (77 points)

Caps’ record vs. Lighting this season: 2-0-1

At last week’s update, the Lightning had 77 points. This week: 77 points. Not good. With three straight losses including a home loss to the woeful Arizona Coyotes, it appears the injuries have finally caught up to Tampa. They now trail Toronto by four points and the Leafs hold a game in hand so this matchup now seems unlikely.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin will wear custom painted skates Thursday