Trotz gripes about diving (‘soccer mentality’) as Capitals struggle

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You can slice the Washington Capitals’ early struggles in a few ways (losses in three of four, 2-5-0 in their last seven games), but their overall 5-6-1 record works well enough.

If recent slippage wasn’t frustrating enough for Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, it sure seems like the Caps have been struggling when it comes to taking penalties versus receiving power plays recently.

During the past four games, the Capitals haven’t scored on the man advantage, going 0-for-9. They’ve also only had power play success in one of their last seven games (2-for-5 in an OT win against Detroit on Oct. 20).

They’ve gone four straight games taking more penalties than they’ve managed to draw, and with the losses also coming, few are safe from Trotz’s rage. He even took a jab at other sports in discussing Washington’s discipline issues, as Tarik El-Bashir of NBC Sports Washington reports.

“I despise diving, and our guys know it,” Trotz said. “We don’t try to go down easy. We’re not getting any penalties. …We’ve got to keep our legs moving, which will help. But we’re getting a little bit frustrated because some of the soccer mentality is back in our league a little bit—go down easy.”

Someone should convince Trotz to dress up as a soccer referee for Halloween, complete with red and yellow cards. Hey, it’s not too late.

El-Bashir notes that Trotz had the Capitals essentially doing Herbies today, so it’s not as though his quips are merely directed at futbol:

For reference, and really because you shouldn’t ever go too long without a “Miracle” fix:

While Trotz focuses on embellishment, one interesting storyline from the early season has been how teams are adjusting to tweaks to officiating, including the realization that – like it or not – refs are calling way more slashing penalties.

In the long run, it will be interesting to see how Trotz and the Capitals deal with this new reality as a team that no longer boasts an absurd excess of talent.

If this is a season-long issue, does this come down to puck possession (particularly longer stretches of time in the offensive zone or other teams managing to draw penalties in Washington’s zone) or “diving?” Playing the underdog sounds appealing to the Capitals on paper, but we’ll see how well they’ll handle it if this is the new reality.

From the look of things, there might be some exhausting practices as part of those “growing pains.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.