Hockey is a brutal contact sport. Basketball and soccer are contact sports, but hockey players are ruthless and tough as nails. Players are exposed to all kinds of injuries when hits and fights are allowed in a sport where players are knocked off balance as easily as they are when they’re gliding around on two thin sheets of metal.
On Tuesday, with a 3-1 lead early in the second period, front line C Nicklas Backstrom went down with an upper body injury. The stud center took a big hit from Kings D Drew Doughty, abruptly ending his shift and his appearance for the night.
This should be a routine ordeal for hockey teams. Let’s not pretend that injuries are more likely when we know that they are, but it becomes a matter of “when.” When do we hold teams accountable for stepping up int he place of injured players? In a sport like hockey, that is a necessary skill that younger teams tend to lack. The Capitals are the seventh-youngest team in the league, and it was on display when they failed to sustain the two goal lead following Backstrom’s departure.
“Obviously you miss [Backstrom], but every team has guys that go out,” Oates said. “You’ve got 19 other guys that have got to do the job. We have plenty of guys who can do the job.”
Hopefully Oates will use this as an opportunity to educate his young team about how to be resilient and maintain control, especially because this game very easily could have gone the Caps way.
The team went on to lose 5-4 in a shootout, in a frustrating showing when they could and SHOULD have held on to boost their points total and continue their surge in the standings. The playoffs are around the corner and the Capitals really could have used a W to close out their road trip.