A year ago, the Capitals were 2-0-2 with six points after their first four games under new coach Barry Trotz. This season they also have six points after four games (3-1-0) as they head into tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames (8:30 pregame, CSN).
But the players and coach agree there is a big difference in the learning curve.
“There was so much to learn last year,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I’d come home from the rink and my head hurt.”
After a quick 3-0-2 start to last season the Caps struggled, losing six of their next seven games. By early December they were still treading water with a 10-10-4 record after 24 games.
“If you don’t get off to a good start you’re chasing the eight ball all year,” Trotz said. “If you’re not in the playoffs by Thanksgiving the odds of getting in are pretty small. Last year we weren’t and we beat the odds a little bit.”
Last season the Caps were one of the NHL’s best teams over the final four months of the season, going 35-16-9 to finish second in the Metro Division. This season players are following a theme etched on the baseball caps they’ve been seen wearing: Stick With The Script.
“We don’t have to go through what we did the first month or two last year, trying to create what we wanted,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who is scheduled to make his fifth straight start tonight against the Flames.
“We want to pick up where we left off last year and just keep rolling. Our focus is to not miss a beat and not have to start from square one again and it should pay off for us.”
Veteran forward Brooks Laich agreed, saying that after four coaches in four years, there is a stronger familiarity with the expectations of Trotz.
“This year is more of a refresh,” Laich said. “By the end of last season it was sort of in our bodies. Now it’s just training the brain again. We’ve learned the systems, we’ve learned the culture and now we want to take it to another level.”