ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals are not off to the start they expected or would have liked as they enter their game Monday against the Edmonton Oilers with a 1-4-0 record.
There are several reasons for the Capitals' struggles, a lack of even-strength offensive production from the top six and unsteady goaltending chief among them, but another area where they are in dire need of improvement is their starts.
Washington has allowed eight first-period goals through five games, second only to Edmonton's nine. In fact, the Capitals have allowed their opponents to score within their first four shots in all but one game this season, a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 10.
Juxtapose that with just three first-period goals all season, third-fewest in the NHL, and the Capitals' woes from the opening faceoff are magnified.
"We don't want to get behind the eight-ball if we can help it," said coach Adam Oates, who added that his team's starts were a topic of discussion during morning meetings Monday. "We want to try and find our energy right away. It's execution, and unfortunately so far it's like the first shot's been going in too, so it's a little bit of everything. Hopefully we can conquer that."
In order to do so, the Capitals want to establish immediately confidence through simply focusing on the basics.
"I think our puck movement, and that comes from positioning and focus and being sharp and putting the puck on the tape, makes our team look very fast," left wing Brooks Laich said when asked about what improvements he would like to see from the start. "Makes our team look crisp, fast, makes us look structured, disciplined. And I think it can ultimately intimidate teams when you really move the puck sharply.
"So for the first 10 minutes I want to see us make crisp, tape-to-tape [passes], move up the ice as five-man units and stick to our structure and attack their net. We need to put some pressure around their net, get some scrums around their net and win that battle in that area."
Here are the lineups the Oilers and Capitals likely will use:
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Mark Arcobello - Jordan Eberle
Jesse Joensuu - Boyd Gordon - David Perron
Luke Gazdic - Will Acton - Mike Brown
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Justin Schultz - Anton Belov
Andrew Ference - Nick Schultz
Scratched: Nail Yakupov, Philip Larsen, Denis Grebeshkov
Injured: Sam Gagner (jaw), Ryan Hamilton (knee), Steve MacIntyre (knee), Corey Potter (back)
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Martin Erat - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
Alexander Urbom - John Carlson
Nate Schmidt - Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Aaron Volpatti
Injured: John Erskine (upper body), Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau)