News, notes and some interesting quotes as the Capitals spend a Thursday off in southern California, dreaming about the beautiful weather in D.C.:
Stanley Cup preview?: It seems every Western Conference team the Caps have faced lately has been trumpeted as the team they could face in the Stanley Cup Final three months from now. Whether it’s the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings, everyone in the West seems to think the road to the 2016 Stanley Cup runs through Chinatown.
“If we want to win the Cup there’s a good chance we’ll have to go through them,” Kings forward Jeff Carter said after netting the overtime game-winner in the Caps’ 4-3 loss in Staples Center Wednesday night. “So tonight was a big game. It was probably for both teams two different games. Hot start, slow down. Slow start, heat up. They’re a good team, and chances are pretty good that if we want to get to where we need to be we’ll have to go through them.”
Slow starts, fast finishes: Including Wednesday night’s quick 3-0 deficit to the Kings, the Caps have been outscored
53-48 in first periods this season. On the flip side, they’ve outscored opponents by 27 goals in second periods and by 36 goals in third periods for a two-period total of plus-63.
“I didn’t like our first thirty minutes of the game,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We needed to fix our battles on the puck and in those one-on-one areas we were a little loose with the puck. It’s not necessarily what you get, it’s what you leave and we left them some prime chances to come back on an odd-man rush and get a good look.
“This group was resilient. They were down three and looked at it as a challenge to see if we could come back and we did. Obviously, in overtime we had a bit of a poor change recognizing that we had to get some players off. That’s what happens in three-on-three.”
Trotz said he’s trying to look at Wednesday game as a glass half full.
“We will take the second half of the game and say, ‘That’s what we need to do and the way we need to play,’” he said. ”This group wouldn’t be satisfied with that effort in the first period for the whole game.
“We’re playing a very good team. The L.A. Kings are not going to let you come into their building and have an easy game. We took a while to engage into it and once we did we were fine. It was a good learning lesson and maybe down the road we can run into each other again. It’ll be a good reminder for us.”
Heavy hitters: Although there was a greater emphasis last season on the Caps playing a “heavy” game, the same can be said this season. The Caps rank 11th in the NHL in hits this season with 1,636. Last season, the Caps ranked ninth in the league with 2,335 hits.
A big reason for the Caps’ third-period dominance has been the physical toll they’ve inflicted on their opponents. Just ask the Kings, who lead the NHL with 2,006 hits.
“Two big teams,” said Milan Lucic, who leads the Kings with 217 hits. “They’re a team that’s played well all season long, that’s why they’re in first place in the league. A big part of their success is playing physical, and that’s a big part of our success, too.
“We learned a pretty good lesson today in the third period that we can’t take anything for granted. Even though we’re up three-nothing and had such a great start, when we don’t play the right way we let teams back in it. Good for us to get that extra point there in overtime, but there’s a lesson to be learned by the way we played in the third period.”
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