With 17:44 left in the second period Thursday, it was about to get ugly.
To the Capitals’ credit, the team had already killed off a penalty they suffered in the opening minute of the game. The patterns—at least from the press box—looked more coordinated, as in, you could see them, even if nothing had resulted in an actual goal. But the Caps looked like they could be just one good pass shy of it.
But then came the penalty kill not far into the second, and before that could be burned, the dreaded 5-on-3, as Troy Brouwer joined Alex Ovechkin in the box for a delay of game penalty.
The Capitals held out until 4 seconds were left in the 5-on-3, and then the Montreal Canadiens scored. Then they scored again on another Capitals’ penalty kill. Then they scored twice even-handed. The Capitals’ Joey Crabb finally scored at the end of the third, bringing the end score to 4-1, a tally that was not reflective of the excellent job Michal Neuvirth did in net for the Capitals.
Beagle agreed the two power play goals took the wind out of their sails.
“It shouldn’t have,” Beagle said, “because it was only 2-nothing.”
Beagle explained the way to counteract that momentum dive is to get a good shift immediately following—get pressure in the opponent’s end, and keep going.
The penalty killing is rough, but the Capitals are struggling all over the ice. Crabb told reporters after the game overall that team has the skill, so now it’s somewhat a matter of work ethic.
That may play into the debate of lucky bounces vs. making your own luck. Hockey philosophy has always allowed a bit of leverage for the idea of a “lucky bounce,” because, unlike Big Foot, it actually does exist. However, for a team that’s criticized itself for the past two games along an energy-work ethic line, one wonders if they’re even giving luck a chance.
“I would say some of our mistakes are just pure effort,” said head coach Adam Oates, in what is refreshing honesty. “It’s very upsetting. I’m not pushing the panic button, but obviously it’s upsetting. We’re pros, you’ve got to be a pro, and you’ve got to do your job.”
Beagle, who it’s likely no one has ever accused of lack of work ethic, and who had an assist in Thursday’s game in addition to being one of the most engaged players on the ice, discussed the luck vs. make your own phenomenon. It doesn’t take a genius hockey reporter to figure out that if anyone was capable of making their own luck, Beagle’s play these past few games would qualify.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but it seems like the puck’s bouncing the wrong way for us,” Beagle said. “I don’t know if it looks like that, but right now, nothing is coming easy, so we’ve got to work through that, and if you get down 2-nothing, we’ve got to battle, and just do everything we can to try and get that next goal and kind of take the momentum back, especially in our building.”
When asked flat out the luck vs. the making it yourself, he admitted it’s hard to tell, but that the solution is working harder.
The prescription is out there. Sometimes the hardest part is following it.