Through their first 10 games of the regular season the Capitals are 8-2-0 and own the second-largest goal differential in the league at a plus-11.
Yet as they prepare to face the New York Rangers Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden, they are coming off two straight one-goal games and another that ended with an empty-netter.
“If you look at the playoffs last year, there were a lot of one-goal games,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom told reporters in Sunrise, Fla., Monday before the team boarded a flight for New York. “I think it’s good to get those games. Winning 7-4 is not going to happen every night.”
Last spring, 11 of the Capitals’ 14 playoff games were decided by one goal, including all seven of the Caps’ conference semifinal games against the Rangers, a series New York won in overtime in Game 7.
The Caps won six of those 11 games during last year’s playoffs and were an impressive 21-13-10 in one-goal games last season.
“We had to have played in the most one-goal games in the league last year,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who is scheduled to make his ninth start of the season Tuesday night. “It seemed like every game was a one-goal game and that does a lot for your confidence.
“It makes you comfortable in tough situations. It’s one of those things we want to get stronger at because we want to be the best in the league at that. We’re getting there. We have guys committed to doing that.”
This season, after each of their first five games were decided by two or more goals, the Caps have been involved in three-one-goal games in their last five and have won all three.
One reason for Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime win against the Panthers was coach Barry Trotz’s willingness to shake up all four of his forward lines, putting a “worker” on each line. The switch led to Jay Beagle’s game-tying goal on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams.
“It was pretty simple,” Trotz said of his line juggling. “I didn’t like the work ethic on some of our lines We were too much to the perimeter.”
Trotz said he talked about playing a better interior game after each of the first to periods before doing something about it.
“I said, ‘OK, I’m done talking and I basically put one guy on each line I knew would get pucks and go to the net to pull some of our skill guys into the battle a little better.”
On Monday, Trotz tinkered with his bottom two lines, promoting Andre Burakovsky (2 goals, 3 assists, minus-2) to the third line with Beagle and Jason Chimera and dropping Tom Wilson (0 goals, 2 assists, even) to the fourth line with center Chandler Stephenson and left wing Brooks Laich.
“It’s a little bit of trying to help out the fourth line and try to help out Burakovsky,” Trotz said. “I moved them around as the game went along an I’ll probably do that again (in New York).”