Washington, DC-The Washington Capitals are seeing their mental fortitude put to the test in a year where a high-flying act has gone sour. They were once the toast of the hockey world with an explosive offense and never-say-die persona that led to a 121-point 2009-10 campaign and the undying admiration of newly-minted fan base.
Yet in a matter of months it's safe to say most of the goodwill might be used up.
With the Caps unraveling amidst a disheartening 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, those in attendance at the Verizon Center decided they had seen enough. They showered Bruce Boudreau and his team with boos throughout a dismal third period in which the Kings broke a 1-1 tie by scoring three unanswered goals.
Boudreau was of like mind as he called a timeout to give his squad a tongue-lashing for the ages after Jarret Stoll tapped in Los Angeles' fourth goal late in the third.
The sense of urgency from the coach on the bench was obvious and it carried over to the locker room. Matt Hendricks told reporters that there was a players-only meeting held shortly after the game. Boudreau confirmed the meeting in his press conference, signalling the time to buckle down for the stretch run is imminent.
"That was the players [who held the meeting]," he said. "I was going to come in [to the locker room] and I had talked to somebody earlier about it and he said 'let me go in and say something.'"
The Capitals have 68 points and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but an anemic power play and a lack offensive firepower has been the cause of much concern. Regular season success has come easy in the past, but now Washington is learning they can't get by with half-hearted efforts for whatever reason.
"I think [we need to get] everyone on the same page for a solid 60 minutes," said Hendricks. "We're going to make mistakes, we're going to have our turnovers. You're going to have times where things don't go the right way, but if we can get everyone kind of committed and buying into the exact same thing...you know it needs to be everyone and we're working at it and hopefully we can figure it out."
For their sake, let's hope they do.