Tuesday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes had a very familiar feel to it for the Caps. It was yet another commanding performance at home in which Washington was able to establish control early then pour it on late as the game spiraled out of control for the opponents. The win was Washington’s tenth straight at home. It was the ninth straight time the team scored five or more goals at Verizon Center and it was the fifth time in those 10 wins that the opponent was shutout.
Things have been going so well lately, the media is running out of new questions to ask.
“I feel like we’ve been talking about this a lot lately,” Marcus Johansson said when asked about depth scoring as everyone has been asked throughout this stretch.
But winning as impressively as the Caps have done of late is not without its challenges. For head coach Barry Trotz, he still must critique what he sees, fix the holes that he finds and convey his message in a way to make sure it does not fall on deaf ears.
It’s easy to ignore the coach when things are going so well, but no game is perfect as Trotz stressed after Tuesday’s blowout win.
“I didn’t like our second period,” he said. “Just too much risk in our game. We’re giving up odd man rushes, just sloppy and not securing the puck. They had a couple guys in front of our net and the D were gone, leaving the zone before we really had the puck secured. Just not managing it really, really well.”
It sounds like Trotz is nitpicking, but he’s not wrong. Washington held a 2-0 lead after the first period but could not build on that lead in the second. The issue wasn’t the offense, ti was sloppy play in the defensive zone.
For Trotz, who always stresses the importance of strong defensive play, the second period served as a teachable moment.
“When you have a 2-0 lead, you don't want it to be 2-1,” Trotz said. “It's not that we're going to go into a defensive shell or anything, it's just manage the situation correctly.”
But how do you get that message across to the players given how this team is playing?
“I think they understand,” Trotz said. “I think they enjoy the fact that we can make plays, we can score goals, but I think they know that they take pride and responsibility to each other to defend well and they know that if they defense well they're going to have the puck more.”
That’s not just coach speak, the players echoed that sentiment about never being satisfied.
“We keep playing because we want to keep getting better,” Johansson said. “We're all competitive in here. Really competitive and that's one of our strengths I think.”
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to worry about the players taking their foot off the gas or tuning out the coaches because of the team’s success. It’s happened before to many teamsnot just in hockey, but in every sport. What makes this team different, says Trotz, is that the recent stretch hasn’t made coaching the players more difficult, it’s actually had the opposite effect because the team is seeing the results of its hard work night in and night out.
“Really once you start seeing on the ice where you're good defensively and you get the puck more, it's an easier game for you,” Trotz said. “You get more offense out of it, then it's an easy sell.”
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