Capitals Again Bemoan Lack Of Net-Front Presence In Loss To Sabres

The Washington Capitals pelted Jhonas Enroth with shot after shot Saturday, a season-high 44 reaching the Buffalo Sabrss goaltender, but dominant possession performances don't always equate to victories. 

In the contemplative moments following a 2-1 loss to the suddenly streaking yet still woebegone Sabres, the Capitals bemoaned the overall absence of difficulty that their shot attempts presented.

"The one thing that probably stands out is that we threw 77 pucks roughly to their net, so it wasn't like we weren't trying to throw pucks there, but we need to have a little more net presence," coach Barry Trotz said. "We talk about that all the time. Their goaltender was good and when a goaltender is good and seeing the puck, you've got to make him not see the puck.

"We need a little more traffic, we need second efforts, hunger around the net a little bit more. We're sort of one-and-done type things. ... You've got to just create those second and third efforts around the net, create a little more havoc for them. That's an area that we'll have to get better at."

Trotz has outfitted each of his lines with at least one big-bodied forward, particularly on the right side, that should gravitate toward the crease and obscure the opposing goaltender's vision. That interior play, however, has been absent. A rough estimate provided by the website Some Kind of Ninja totals 42 Washington shots within 10 feet of the goal at even strength. At least six teams -- Calgary, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Florida and New Jersey -- have fewer (Arizona wasn't included).

Both Buffalo goals, each scored within 11 feet according to the official play-by-play sheet, typified the kind of ugly effort Trotz is seeking from his skaters: flurries generated by scrums in front of the net. Colleague Alex Prewitt counted three pairs of shot attempts within five seconds of each other for the Sabres, including Torrey Mitchell's game-winning rebound goal. The Capitals, despite a distinct shot advantage, did only twice. 

"We threw a lot of pucks at the net. We could get more bodies in front of the crease," said defenseman Matt Niskanen, who scored Washington's lone goal. "Their goalie was good tonight, but I think he saw too many, more than we would like. We've got to start working that into our game a little bit more. Goalies in this league, if they see shots, they're going to stop them most of the time. We had some whacks at rebounds, guys are going there, but we've got to take away his eyes a little better."

The Capitals, more than most teams, are capable of scoring breathtaking goals, but dull goals count just the same. 

"We had a great chance to score goals, but the second opportunity was right there but we didn't put our body in front of the net," forward Alex Ovechkin said. "It was a good lesson [of] what we have to do when we're going to have that kind of opportunities, that kind of chances to score goals."

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