News, notes and quotes as the Capitals enjoy a Sunday off following their annual Casino Night at the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel in Arlington:
In his 18 years behind an NHL bench, Barry Trotz has learned when to push his players and when to pull back. And over the course of an 82-game season, he believes pulling back can be just as impactful as pushing.
Several times this season Trotz has canceled practices on mornings following games, including Saturday’s cancellation following Friday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings. He followed with a scheduled day off on Sunday before asking his players to return to Kettler for two full practice days on Monday and Tuesday.
“You might put more (physical) effort into a 45-minute practice than you do in a game,” Trotz said. “But emotionally your battle level and your focus level should be higher in a game.
“You get an adrenaline rush and then an adrenaline crash. You might get banged up because some games are more physical than others. During the season you get more tired mentally, so we work on making them stronger mentally.”
Throughout the season Trotz introduces his players to Special Ops leaders, motivational speakers and performance coaches, all designed to prepare them for the grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hitting their marks: The Capitals’ coaching staff has redefined some of the team goals that were set last season, hoping to tighten up their defensive play while increasing puck possession.
Through 16 games, the Caps lead the NHL in shots against per game (25.2), rank sixth in goals per game (3.06) and power-play percentage (22.4 percent), rank tied for sixth in goals against per game (2.31) and shots per game (31.1) and seventh in penalty kill percentage (84.8 percent).
The Caps have held opponents to 30 or fewer shots in 14 consecutive games, marking the longest streak since the 1999-2000 season (also 14 games). The franchise record for most consecutive games holding an opponent to fewer than 30 shots is 20 games, set during the 1984-85 season.
As a result, the Caps’ 11-4-1 record after 16 games is their third-best start in franchise history. The Caps opened the 1991-92 season with a 12-4-0 record and had the same record through 165 games in 2010-11.
Waiting on Andre: Through 16 games, second-year right wing Andre Burakovsky has just two goals on 2q2 shots, putting him on pace for just 10 goals and 113 shots this season.
In 53 games last season Burakovsky, 20, recorded nine goals on 65 shots.
“You have to be patient with all young players,” Trotz said, “as long as they’re willing to learn. Where you lose your patience is when they’re making the same mistakes over and over again.
“For me, Andre is eager to learn. He’s going to score. He’s a gifted player. I think he’s lost a little bit of confidence or trust in his own skill set. I tell him, ‘Trust your shot. Shoot it from the top of the circles where you’re comfortable from instead of working down to the hash marks.
“Just because a goaltender makes a good save doesn’t mean he’s going to control the rebound. He can get to the middle of the ice and let that shot go. I think the game in Philadelphia (season-high three shots, no points) might have been his best game in 10 games. He was working both ends of the ice.
“It’ll come. I think young guys put a lot more value on their ability to produce. They focus on production but there are 100 different things you can do to help a team win.”
Start your lobbying: Player selection for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is still months away, but St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong says Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and his assistant coaches should be mindful of under-the-radar players who could help Team Canada.
"They have not been involved," said Armstrong, who is Team Canada’s general manager. "But we are going to, at some point in the near future, share our list of watch players. Basically, we want them to see who we're watching, but we also want them to add any names that we might not have had.
“Obviously, the further you get away from the play, I think the more emotion that's gone from it from a man perspective. These guys are on the bench, they know these players as well as anyone, so if they want to add a name to the list, then we certainly want to listen to those guys."