'Mental lapses' at core of Capitals' recent slide

Chris Lingebach
February 19, 2020 - 12:12 pm
'Mental lapses' at core of Capitals' recent slide

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Here it is, the downward stretch of the Capitals' schedule that could define their 2019-20 season.

Climb out of it and they could point to this stretch as the moments they saved their season. Or they can continue to tumble further down the standings, already having ceded first place to Pittsburgh in the Metro Division.

"Obviously not the results we wanted," Carl Hagelin said of their recent skid during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance, presented by F.H. Furr. "We didn't really deserve to win the games either. Two of those games, we definitely didn't bring it. I think we weren't paying attention to detail. It looked like we wanted things to come pretty easy. We didn't really want to work for it."

"This league, if you're not physically and mentally involved 100 percent, it's hard to win games, so we need to get back to playing smart hockey and focus on playing well defensively," he said. "And that's all over the ice, winning every single battle that you're in. Usually good things happen once every single guy starts figuring that stuff out."

Caps analyst Craig Laughlin recently spoke to these mental lapses as well. Focusing on the offensive end, Locker believes the Caps need to focus on the three most important aspects that lead to goal-scoring: stick position, speed to get around a guy, and courage to get to the net. "If you miss one of those steps," he said, "you're not gonna score!"

Capitals coach Todd Reirden had hoped their three-game road trip would serve as a needed reset, a chance to regroup and refocus their efforts while away from the everyday obligations of life at home. But the Caps emerged 1-2 from their tour through Colorado, Arizona and Vegas, bucking their previous 12-2-1 trend during multi-game road trips this season.

They're now 4-6 over their last 10 games and 10-10 over their last 20.

"They have to be honest," Hagelin said of the coaching staff's demeanor during rough patches in the season. "I think it's important for a player to hear your coach being honest in tough times. We're not playing well enough. You want to hear from them, you want to hear what we can do better and sometimes it's a wakeup call.

"You know, it's a long season and you go though stretches where you might not be fully mentally there, and a couple mental lapses in a game will cost you. I think our coaching staff's doing a pretty good job of telling us this is what we need to do. It has nothing to do with skills. It comes down to will and it's not a thing you have to work on, really. You just have to start doing it. Because we can all do it and we've shown it before."

Asked if someone in the locker room needs to step up as a vocal leader, Hagelin said, "I think players, we like to talk to each other. Sometimes guys just stand up in the locker room. But mostly I think it's just certain groups talk to each other, a certain group of players, and then you know sometimes the lines are talking together."

"Because at the end of the day, if you focus on what you can do, that's gonna bring people with you," he said. "If you're a good leader, you show it on the ice and guys just follow. That's the type of team we are. It comes down to every single player on every single line to start playing better. All it takes is a couple more percent for each guy and all of a sudden we're back where we need to be, but we definitely need to see some changes in terms of how we handle ourselves when it comes to that aggressive mindset and that desperate mindset, is probably a good word."