Throughout much of the Alex Ovechkin era in Washington, Capital One Arena has typically been one of the toughest venues for visitors to play in the entire NHL.
However, this season has proven to be different. Since the start of December, the Capitals are just 5-9-2 at home -- a stretch that has includes losses to struggling teams like Vancouver, San Jose and most recently, Ottawa.
Speaking on the Sports Junkies on Tuesday, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette sounded off on his team's poor play inside Capital One Arena, calling it "unacceptable."
"There's no question that is not where we want to be," Laviolette said. "We've talked about it the last couple of games at home. We've got to be better. Everybody. In situational play, in 5-on-5 play, the forward, the defense the goaltending has not been good enough. It's unacceptable. We've got to change that."
This past Sunday, the Capitals hosted Ottawa in what concluded a stretch of three of four games at home. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for Washington to earn two points before heading on the road for nearly a week.
However, that didn't happen. Things started off well for Washington but quickly sputtered. The Senators were able to notch a short-handed goal less than five minutes into the game and then doubled their lead in a matter of minutes on a breakaway goal.
"We started last game the wrong way," Laviolette said. "We drew the power play and we let up a goal, so that was very frustrating, not the way we wanted the game to start. We got caught in an odd-man rush and all of a sudden, it's 2-0."
Starting off slow has become a common theme for the Capitals at home as of late. Washington has been able to come back in some of those contests, but not nearly enough.
"It seems like -- for no reason -- when we're at Capital One [Arena], we're falling behind," he said. "We're chasing the game. We're pushing and pushing and pushing. Sometimes we've caught the game and won. Sometimes we've caught the game then lost it right at the end. Then sometimes we just haven't caught the game."
Slow starts have taken the crowd out of games at Capital One Arena. Laviolette has noticed, too. The head coach understands how valuable a loud crowd of fans can be for Washington and says they must do whatever they can to prevent it from happening moving forward.
"Falling behind early at home has not helped. It just changes the dynamic of the game, of the building. We've got to be better. There's no excuse for that," he said.
Luckily for Laviolette and Washington, the Capitals are set to go on the road this week -- facing the Predators, the Rangers and the Flyers twice before returning to Capital One Arena next week. Laviolette's squad has been marginally better on the road this season, as the Capitals have posted a 14-5-4 record away from Capital One Arena this season.
"My belief is that we get on the road, we play pretty smart. We play hard," Laviolette said. "I don't know what changes when we come home, but it certainly hasn't gone our way."