Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New-Look Capitals Searching for Identity, Answers as Struggles Continue

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New-Look Capitals Searching for Identity, Answers as Struggles Continue

Article excerpt

New-look Capitals searching for identity

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VANCOUVER - After a summer of change that saw no fewer than five key players wave goodbye, the new-look Washington Capitals continue to search for their identity -- whatever that is.

Winners of back-to-back Presidents' Trophies, the Capitals sit with a pedestrian 4-5-1 record, including a recent 1-3-1 run, as the first month of the season nears a close.

The latest setback came in Thursday's 6-2 road loss to the Vancouver Canucks where they trailed 3-0 after the first period against a rebuilding franchise that has surprised early on, but nonetheless was coming off a five-game road trip.

"We are not the same team," Washington head coach Barry Trotz said following the defeat at Rogers Arena. "There's a lot of people missing, so this group has to find what is going to work.

"Some of the things we do are things we did last year and the year before that we could probably get away with just based on our lineup."

That lineup was pinched by salary cap concerns during the off-season as Washington lost defencemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner, as well as forward Justin Williams in free agency, while forward Marcus Johansson was traded.

The Capitals were also left without a third key piece on the blue line when the Vegas Golden Knights selected Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft.

To compound the problem, Washington currently has long-term injury concerns with forward Andre Burakovsky (thumb) and defenceman Matt Niskanen (upper body), while centre Nicklas Backstrom sat out the game in Vancouver because of an illness.

That's a lot of talent missing from a roster that dressed rookie defenceman Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos, along with journeyman Taylor Chorney against the Canucks. Up front, there are names like Alex Chiasson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker and Chandler Stephenson.

The Capitals still have star power in captain Alex Ovechkin, centre Evgeny Kutznetsov, defenceman John Carlson and goalie Braden Holtby, but the era of run-and-gun seems to be long gone. …

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