Team in­sists of­fense will come af­ter ‘un­ac­cept­able’ shutouts

Washington blanked twice in row at home

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY STEPHEN WHYNO

Some play­ers shake off the no­tion of frus­tra­tion. Sure, the Washington Cap­i­tals haven’t scored in nearly a week, but cap­tain Alex Ovechkin and coach Dale Hunter have stressed the process of do­ing the right things.

“We have chances. It’s [the] more im­por­tant thing,” Ovechkin said.

But chances and feel­ing good about of­fen­sive play are sim­ply not good enough this time of year, and the Cap­i­tals go into Tues­day night’s game against the Carolina Hur­ri­canes at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter hav­ing been shut out twice in a row. That’s the first time for this team since 2006-07 and the first time at home since March 2001.

“It’s just a mat­ter of us scor­ing goals,” for­ward Matt Hen­dricks said. “Two games in a row, it’s un­ac­cept­able.”

Un­ac­cept­able given not only the fire­power this team was sup­posed to have but what’s at stake. Five points back of the South­east-lead­ing Florida Pan­thers, Washington is closer to the 13th spot in the East­ern Con­fer­ence than first place in the di­vi­sion.

But the num­ber that’s most stun­ning is 120, as in 120 min­utes with­out a goal since Ovechkin beat the New York Is­lan­ders in over­time Feb. 28. Dur­ing the first three games of this five-game home­s­tand, the Caps scored three goals in a span of 5:04 but noth­ing in the other 176:31.

Jeff Halpern said he and his teammates aren’t fo­cused on the scor­ing woes.

“I don’t think we’re think­ing about that at all. We’re just kind of ap­proach­ing the games try­ing to win the games [know­ing] how im­por­tant they are,” the veteran for­ward said. “Ob­vi­ously, you have to score, but I don’t think that’s at the fore­front. I think just win­ning games is re­ally the only thing guys are think­ing about right now.”

It’s a lot eas­ier to win when goals are com­ing, of course. Hunter and his play­ers roundly agreed that Sun­day’s 1-0 loss to Philadel­phia fea­tured some strong play and good chances, but Fly­ers goal­tender Ilya Bryz­galov was up to the chal­lenge.

“If you get those kind of ef­forts con­sis­tently, then goals usu­ally take care of them­selves,” Halpern said. “If CAROLINA AT CAP­I­TALS To­day: TV:

Ra­dio: you get good chances, you’re go­ing to score. If you’re not get­ting the chances and you’re giv­ing up stuff and you’re not spend­ing time around the net, then that’s when there’s rea­son for con­cern.”

But there’s con­cern al­ready, be­cause as many play­ers pointed out, this is not the time of the sea­son to talk up “moral vic­to­ries.” It’s about re­sults, and the next step was a Mon­day prac­tice geared to­ward do­ing more of the lit­tle things around the net.

It was right in Hunter’s teach­ing wheel­house as he tried to re-in­still some fun­da­men­tals for the Cap­i­tals in the of­fen­sive zone.

“We’re al­ways stop­ping. ‘D’ jump­ing up in the play. Cre­at­ing the od­dman rushes more,” the coach said. “And just get more traf­fic in front. Most of the goals are scored around the blue paint, so if you want to score, you bet­ter be around there.”

Hen­dricks and veteran right wing Mike Knu­ble pointed out that Bryz­galov al­lowed sev­eral re­bounds, but Washington couldn’t cap­i­tal­ize. Some of that has to do with not driv­ing to the net.

Hunter said there’s “def­i­nitely a lot more work” in­volved when stop­ping for­ward mo­men­tum at the crease, but it’s that kind of com­mit­ment to of­fense that should lead to more scor­ing.

“With that it’s con­sis­tency. It’s about do­ing it ev­ery night. If you do that, you’re go­ing to see more re­bound goals, things like that,” Hen­dricks said. “Good net drive, shots to the net, find­ing re­bounds and putting them in the net. It’s some­thing you’ve got to do ev­ery night.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Left wing Alex Ovechkin, cel­e­brat­ing a goal Feb. 24 against Mon­treal, is the last Cap­i­tal to score since Feb. 28. His over­time goal beat the New York Is­lan­ders 3-2.

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