Barry Trotz is a big believer that if his players plays the right way for long enough periods of time, the hockey gods will reward them with a series victory over the Penguins.
“Pounding the rock” is the expression he likes to use.
In Game 3 on Monday night the Capitals pounded that rock with 49 shots on rookie goaltender Matt Murray. But instead of a wellspring of goals, the Caps only got a late trickle with a pair of third-period goals in a 3-2 loss.
So how does Trotz convince his players to keep pounding that rock? He provides evidence – like the game tape from Monday night, where he could show a 49-23 advantage in shots and a 58-25 edge in hits.
“The result wasn’t what we wanted,” Caps center Jay Beagle said. “But we woke up confident and watched the video today. We played the right way and you’ve got to be happy when you’re playing the right way.
“I think you get in trouble when you start to get away from the plan because we didn’t get the result we wanted. Then that starts to become a problem.”
Beagle should know. Before the arrival of Trotz, the Capitals were known as a team that would veer off the tracks when things didn’t go their way. They would cheat for chances offensively and leave themselves vulnerable defensively. Trotz is convinced that won’t happen in this series, even though the Capitals trail two games to one.
“When things didn’t go our way, we would change the plan, everybody would go on their own plan,” Trotz said of his early experiences with the Caps last season.
“And I think what this group has learned is that you stay to the plan, you execute and do the job well.
“If you do that, it will turn your way. Guys are not going to change their plan. They all knew we played a pretty darn good hockey game last night. They’re not going to go, `We have to do something totally different because we didn’t win.’
“I think that’s where this team has matured. We have good poise. You’ve seen that all year with our team. We don’t get rattled often. We do get, I would say, very determined at times and we’ve shown a lot of resiliency all year. That’s why we were able to have the record we did. We didn’t let things bother us too much. And we’ve got a good leadership group that when things maybe aren’t going the way you want, they seem to be able to put it back on the rails for us. I think that’s the growth of our team the last two years. …
``When we went into this we expected it to go long. We’re OK with that. We’re built for that.’’
In the first two games of their series against the Pens the Capitals were outshot 80-59.But in Game 3 the tables were turned with the Caps holding a 49-23 shot advantage.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby cited a few reasons why.
“We didn’t get enough zone time,” Crosby said. “We were off the rush and done pretty quick. When you do that, they have the puck longer and they have a lot more energy to play offensively. That was the big difference from the first two in Washington.
“We won (Game 3), but we can’t expect to play like that and continue to win. I think we all understand that and we know we need to better for Game 4.”
If you believe Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals are bigger and stronger than the Penguins and they expect to continue their physical assault on their second-round opponent. The goals eventually will follow, they believe, and so will the wins.
“Every hit matters,” said Caps right wing Tom Wilson, who has 12 of them in this series. “Players will be the first to tell you that when they have a sore shoulder they’re more hesitant to make a play. It’s a physical sport, guys are hard on each other and that’s why people love the game.”
Since Trotz’s arrival last season the Capitals have gone into every playoff series expecting, maybe even hoping, to go seven games. So far, two of the three series he’s coached have gone the distance.
“We’re prepared to go to Game 6, Game 7,” Beagle said. “We love the battle. We’ve talked about it all year and we’re in a good battle right now.”
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