That the Washington Capitals are approaching the 2017-18 season with caution and tempered expectations shouldn’t be surprising.
Such is the case when you’re coming off two seasons of not only disappointment, but also identical fates. Over the past two campaigns, Washington has twice finished the regular season with the Presidents’ Trophy, looking poised to finally climb the post-season mountain. And twice they’ve been shut down by the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, watching Sidney Crosby and Co. go on to claim back-to-back Stanley Cups.
One can understand how that type of demoralizing run might weigh on the Capitals’ mindset heading into a fresh season, and according to head coach Barry Trotz, that issue is indeed rearing its head.
“If you talk to players, it’s been a little bit harder to get the energy this year based on how it ended and the summer,” Trotz told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti Saturday. “We got stuck in last year’s energy or lack of at the end. It took a piece of us and now we’ve got to dust ourselves off here and go ‘Hey, you know what? It’s for real. Let’s get going. We’re professional. Let’s quit with the self pity and all that. Whatever’s holding us back, let’s go play because we can play.'”
Trotz said he hasn’t been pleased with his club’s play through the pre-season thus far. Though the Capitals still boast elite offensive dynamos like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, they’ve come up on the losing side in five of their six pre-season tilts.
Pre-season games they may be, but Trotz said he isn’t encouraged by what he’s seeing.
“We need a little more offence out of our forwards, there’s no question,” Trotz told the Washington Post‘s Isabelle Khurshudyan Friday. “We’ve scored three five-on-five goals. So that’s disturbing for the quality of forwards that we have.
“We’ve got nothing from our top guys to this point in terms of production and points, but I trust that their skill and their pedigree will come out.”
By Saturday, Trotz’s thoughts on his team’s offensive wilting had taken a turn.
Washington has one final tune-up match on the schedule, a pre-season finale against the St. Louis Blues Sunday, before the goal totals begin to matter. They’ll open the regular season on the road against the Ottawa Senators Thursday.