Although they suffered a loss Sunday to the Rangers, the Capitals have played noticeably better as they show progressing signs of adapting to Adam Oates’ system.
But even though the team is trending upward with three wins in its last four games, the Caps are still just 5-9-1, and a team desperately digging their way out of a very big hole they dug for themselves to start this shortened season.
One glaring deficiency has been on the Penalty Kill, where the Caps still reside in the bottom half of the league as 75% effective. But there is a solution to this nagging problem.
“I know it’s difficult to understand but it really goes day by day,” Caps forward Brooks Laich told the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday. “I mean, there’s some days when I wake up and I get to the rink and I have more pain than I did yesterday, so we’ll ease off and try and do some strengthening exercises. Some days when I wake up and I feel really good and I get on the ice and I can push it a little bit more. It’s just a roller coaster ride.”
Laich, the most valuable resource the Caps have on the PK, has been sidelined the duration of the season for a groin injury he sustained in November while playing in Switzerland.
“We set out a program on what we would like to do, what we would think would be the best for me, but being able to follow that depends on how I’m feeling each day,” Laich said.
He intimated he’s done everything he can to put himself in position to heal the quickest, believable considering how stringent his well-document dietary habits are. While the Caps are clearly faltering without him, the last thing they want to do is rush him back and run the risk of re-injury, and not have him for a potential playoff run.
“Yea and that’s sort of one of the frustrating things because that’s an enemy that you can’t beat,” Laich said. “I mean there’s nothing you can do to expedite that.”
“But listen, I’ve got no wife, I’ve got no kids, I mean, my only focus is trying to get back in the lineup. When I come home, I’m still thinking ‘What can I do? How can I get back in the lineup?’ It’s just been really frustrating because it’s not going as planned.”
The ultimate Catch-22: the Caps struggles to gain ground in the standings will continue without Laich, but forcing him back too soon could damage their chances of having him down the stretch.
And the only remedy is time.