One of the most memorable scenes from the inaugural installment of HBO's "24/7" series profiling the NHL Winter Classic emanated from the Washington Capitals' locker room.
During the second intermission of a December 2010 game against the Florida Panthers, former head coach Bruce Boudreau ripped into his players in a profanity-laced tirade, lambasting them for feeling sorry for themselves in the face of adversity.
Boudreau has since moved on, as have most of the players who were the object of his ire, but nearly three years later, his concerns have endured.
After playing what head coach Adam Oates called their best first period of the season despite trailing 1-0, the Capitals quickly unraveled in the second period, allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to score three goals in a span of 3:44 en route to a convincing 4-1 victory on Tuesday at Verizon Center.
As the Hurricanes piled on, the Capitals were seemingly powerless to stop it, and the furious flurry of goals against took its toll.
"Their second goal kind of deflated us a little bit," said defenseman Karl Alzner, who beared witness to Boudreau's rant. "I still thought we were okay, and they got that power-play goal [to extend the lead to 3-0], and there was no life left, not only on the bench, but in the stands. We maybe underestimated these guys a little bit. When they were up 3-0 on us, we were mad, but we didn't use that anger the right way. We used it to kind of feel sorry for ourselves."
With his finger firmly on the Capitals' pulse, the always forthright Alzner has served as the team's conduit to the outside world throughout his career, and Tuesday was far from the first time that he has offered such information umprompted, underlining a deeply rooted problem.
When informed of Alzner's comments, Oates was not surprised, conceding that those deflating feelings are only natural over the course of an 82-game season.
“I think what he says is accurate,” Oates said. “We all feel that. The building feels it. We’d be lying if we said it doesn't happen. It’s not like they don't go out and don't try.
"You’re going to have moments that are like, ‘Wow,’ just like you have moments that are too good to be true. When the third goal went in, it is deflating. You’ve got to play.”
Consistency has been the buzzword surrounding the Capitals this season, but their mental fragility -- an issue that two head coaches before Oates have failed to rectify -- has persisted for much longer.
Alzner also mentioned after the game that the Capitals seemingly take a "U-turn" every time they could potentially turn a corner. Above all else, if they cannot find a way to find strength through adversity, then they will continue to drive in circles.
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