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Wilson on what went wrong last season and how this year can be better originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Up until Dec. 23, 2019, the Capitals were the best team in hockey. From there, the team dropped to third in the Eastern Conference and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the New York Islanders in just five games.
What happened? Tom Wilson believes the team lost its bounce-back mentality.
"I think the regular season is all about consistency," Wilson said. "It usually is a long year with a lot of hockey and teams get streaky. You want to stay as consistent as you can. If you lose one, you’d always hear [Barry Trotz] say ‘If you lose one, you’ve got to get the next one.’ That’s been a mentality for a while here with our group and I think last year, we got away from it at times. We weren’t playing our best hockey and we didn’t fix it as quickly and it can spiral a little bit and then you’re not feeling as good about your game."
From the start of the season to Dec. 22, Washington managed a record of 26-6-5. From Dec. 23 on, the team was 15-14-3. From the start of the season to Dec. 22, Washington did not lose back-to-back games in regulation once. From Dec. 23 on, the team did it four times.
For an older team, this type of trajectory could spell the end of their championship window. Wilson, however, sees plenty to like about the new Caps going forward.
"I think we’ve made some changes, there’s new faces, I think the vibe in the locker room, so far, has been outstanding," Wilson said. "Guys are really excited. It feels like a new team."
The core of the team remains the same with players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson all back, but there were several key additions in the offseason. The team added Justin Schultz, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Zdeno Chara to the defense as well as Conor Sheary on offense, among others.
Most importantly, there is a new feeling around the team because of the new coach, Peter Laviolette.
"We have a core that’s been here for a while and those leaders are second-to-none and superstars in the league, but the new guys that have been added, the coaching staff, it feels like we’ve kind of hit the refresh button and it’s exciting," Wilson said. "I think that is something that a team needs. They want to go out and compete together and win together and so far, that’s the feeling that’s in this room."