Capitals' effort,hockey IQ diminishing playoff push

Published: Mar 06, 2014 12:39pm EST
By Jeff Kryglik, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Mar 06, 2014 @ 12:39pm EST


In what could have been a beneficial home-and-home series with a bitter rival, one Metropolitan Division contender, or pretender for that matter, found a way to relinquish what could have been a golden opportunity.

The Washington Capitals have played two quality periods over the past 120 minutes of hockey. The main issue is there are four other periods in between the first period Sunday and the their period Wednesday in their respective contests with the Philadelphia Flyers.

It's been an issue that has haunted Washington all season long. And it's part of the reason as to why they've relinquished 11 two-goal leads thus far in 2013-14. Washington has played far too inconsistent to make anyone, especially their own fans, a believer of what they can do when they could potentially play meaningful hockey games in April, May or June. 

What happened Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center was the epitome of what has kept the Capitals behind the eight ball all season long. Whether it's poor play along the boards, strolling through the neutral zone or slot with lackadaisical effort or keeping sticks off the ice, making the officials' jobs that much easier in order to call penalties, Washington was guilty on all charges yesterday and it will only lead to their demise.

Now, they did make three decent trades before Wednesday's deadline had passed.

They acquired Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks for a fourth-round pick they essentially re-acquired in another trade. Penner will add some much-needed size up front, but has a reputation for being a lazy hockey player. In joining a hockey team that has garnered a reputation for playing as such, it could be a blessing or a recipe for disaster. Penner's contract is up after this season and will become an unrestricted free agent, but Washington could possibly bring him back for cheap.

Forward Martin Erat was sent packing to the Phoenix Coyotes after asking for trades out of D.C. numerous times since his arrival in our nation's capital. Erat has been an underachiever - just two goals in 62 appearances - and a change of scenery could help revitalize the form he established as a member of the Nashville Predators.

Then, there's Jaroslav Halak. A more proven goaltender than what Washington was trotting out between the pipes. They just so happened to ship disgruntled goalie Michal Neuvirth to Buffalo for Halak and he will be given what he had asked for - a chance to start in the NHL. 

It seems like these three trades appease a lot of scars on the 2013-14 season, but some wounds can't be licked and stick with teams like cockroaches in a nuclear disaster. 

Adam Oates can't coach these guys to want it more than their opponents. He can do his best to improve their intelligence on the ice. When to make a hard-around pass as opposed to attempting a cross-ice pass over the middle of the slot. But a lot of those issues are with the guys themselves. Even though Oates is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he isn't lacing them up anytime soon at age 51. 

This isn't on the coaches as much as it's on the guys who climb over the boards and get paid the big bucks to play the game they love. Some question just how much these guys do love the game though, especially considering Washington didn't look up for a game against their closest rival since their inception into the NHL. 

Often times, in any professional job interview, employers will ask candidates if they are "self-starters" and if they prefer the opportunity to work with a team or alone. In hockey, and all professional team sports, players have to be both. If the player doesn't have it inside them to skate 150% to try and beat out an opponent for a 50-50 puck in their own zone, they will lose it. Period. 

As talented as Washington is, sometimes the old saying proves to be true: "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." 


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