Chemistry in sports can be a fickle mistress. The Washington Capitals were Exhibit A tonight, turning in one of their worst first periods in a very long time and a messy game overall.
The trade of Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina to Columbus caught the players — even those involved in the trade — by surprise, and the team was out of sync when the puck dropped against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Caps clearly have excellent chemistry in the locker room; there’s a palpable sense of camaraderie, and many socialize on their off days as well. On the ice the connection is even more apparent, as players often seem to sense passing and shooting lanes before said lanes even open.
Of course, things went awry during the Caps’ 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes. Some will point to the Caps’ past few games of dominating good teams (New Jersey, Buffalo) and think the team underestimated Carolina . . . perhaps understandable given Carolina’s road record, but still a patently dangerous move. Others may blame Jose Theodore for giving up far too many juicy rebounds, or the team taking ill-advised penalties and digging a hole early.
And while all the above factors contributed to the loss, it is the departure of Jurcina and Clark just hours before the game that likely had the biggest impact. Losing a popular young d-man and the team’s captain are just as likely to disrupt that delicate alchemical balance as team-building is to strengthen it.
Now in short order the Capitals will coalesce again. They’re professionals, with jobs they love; a majority of the team remains intact, and they will welcome Jason Chimera to the fold. But when a team so clearly reaps the benefits of good chemistry on most days, one should not be surprised when disrupting the mix has a negative impact mere hours after the change.