Thanksgiving is a day for honest reflection, and keeping with that spirit, Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates was brutally frank following yet another woeful performance Wednesday, this time in the form of a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Capitals' season-high fourth in a row.
Normally one to sift out the negatives, an uncharacteristically agitated Oates could not gloss over the Capitals' shortcomings, making an emotional plea for his players to heed his lessons, which, judging by another mistake-ridden defeat, have apparently fallen on deaf ears.
“I have to approach it the same way," Oates said. "That's who I am. I can’t change who I am. I can’t change the way I approach it. As I’ve said all along, it’s still communication.
“Yelling is irrelevant. That’s high school for me. If the guys don’t know that we let one get away, shame on them. Shame on them. I’m going to tell them, but still, if they walk away and they’re not upset, then there’s nothing any coach can do to change that.”
There simply is no point dissecting what wrong on Wednesday. Listing Washington's problem areas is becoming a tiring and fruitless endeavor.
Despite a relatively strong start in which the Capitals jumped out to a 3-1 first-period lead (something that has frequently eluded them this season, yet one that Oates was not particularly impressed by), they were once again felled by self-inflicted errors.
Undisciplined play (the Capitals' eight minors were tied for a season-high and their 38 penalty minutes second only to the infamous game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 1) was at the forefront, breaking them out of a rhythm and allowing the Senators, who scored three power-play goals on six chances, to slowly creep back into and ultimately win the game.
“We played lousy tonight. Lousy,” Oates said. “We get a lead, and we still don’t do the right things even though on the third goal that we scored we get the goal from doing the right thing. [Brooks Laich’s] goal came from what we talk about all day long. We’re up 3-1, and the next shift we turn it over twice. That’s mental to me.
"We're not going to win games playing this way. We're not. We just proved it."
This may sound particularly odd, but it was in Washington's best interest to lose on Wednesday. If John Carlson's game-tying goal with 3:27 remaining in regulation led to a game-winning overtime or shootout goal, the Capitals would speak of their resolve in the face of a sloppy performance and simply move on.
Yet after losing what can certainly be classified as their worst loss of the season (the third time in four games that such an assessment can be made), their deficiencies cannot be masked.
The Capitals are stuck in a self-made rut. They cannot get out of their own way, and as the hole they keep digging themselves gets deeper, climbing out of that rut will become increasingly difficult.
What will it take to snap them out of their funk? That is the question that Oates and his coaching staff will ask themselves when they reconvene at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday, one that has yet to produce an adequate answer. Perhaps a drastic lineup change is imminent; Oates insinuated as much on Wednesday.
Regardless, as the Capitals celebrate their Thanksgiving, they should at least be thankful for one thing: They do not have to face their coach.
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