Sounding the alarm on the Caps after loss to Rangers

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 24: New York Rangers Defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) hits Washington Capitals Left Wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during the first period of the National Hockey League game between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers on February 24, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

We’ve waited a week for the Capitals to play again, and this performance was not worth the wait. Following a dismal 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers, it’s time to start worrying about this team.

Sure, you can say that the team is rusty. You could also say that the roster hasn’t been 100% healthy all season. These are excuses that can be used any given season. Injuries aren’t enough to justify where this team is struggling.

Inconsistent goaltending has forced Peter Laviolette to continue the carousel between Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov over the last month. This has sparked endless rumors that the Capitals are shopping for a veteran goalie at the trade deadline. Marc-Andre Fleury and a Braden Holtby reunion are possible options.

After a scorching start to the season, Alex Ovechkin has quieted down. The Washington captain went six games without a goal before scoring three times in his last three, including the lone goal in tonight’s loss. If the Caps are going to be a serious threat in the playoffs, they need the dominant Ovechkin to return.

That will be easier said than done. It’s impossible to ignore what is happening in Eastern Europe and the effect it has on Ovi. For years, Ovechkin has been a supporter of Russian President Valdimir Putin, and that support is getting the microscope treatment.

While the situation with Ovechkin is assuredly more complicated than any of us know, to think it won’t impact his performance in the near future is unrealistic.

But the biggest issue with the Capitals is clear. Everyone say it with me, the POWER PLAY.

For years, Washington has been a consistent force on the power play. But that force has become a whimper this season. Currently, the Caps sit in the bottom five in the league in PP percentage. They have spent most of the season there.

Whenever the Capitals get a power play, it feels like a short handed goal is more likely than a PPG. There is zero confidence in the extra man unit.

While they have had their top power play unit scarcely this season. The frustration inevitably boils. Shuffling the lineup hasn’t worked (John Carlson was dropped to the second unit in the third period). Giving the second unit a chance hasn’t worked. Feeding Ovi one-timers isn’t an option right now.

This is the issue Brian MacLellan needs to address at the trade deadline. As we get closer to deadline day, I’ll provide a deeper look into which players MacLellan should target.

But now, it’s time to start glancing over at the panic button. This team is out of sorts. They’ve lost control of the Metropolitan Division to the Rangers and the Carolina Hurricanes. Their iron clad grip on their wild card spot isn’t even a safe anymore.

We all knew this day would come, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I’m not saying that it’s all over for this era of the franchise. But how they played at MSG was sad to watch.

With two more division games in the next week, this is the time where the front office needs to make their decisions. Whomever MacLellan is considering trading for, or away, and whatever changes Laviolette and his staff want to make to the lineup, should be made after next Thursday against Carolina.

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