NASHVILLE, Tenn. | Back-to-backs against the New Jersey Devils and a visit to the Nashville Predators is the NHL equivalent of running a three-game gauntlet of defensive hockey. The Capitals emerged from that stretch with three points, and could’ve had more save for a couple mistakes.
“I think if you look at the three games, for two games and 56 minutes we gave up three goals,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think we stuck right there with them, and that’s the kind of game we want to play because I think that’s where we’re strongest.”
Boudreau talked about needing to regroup from a hard 3-1 loss to the Predators in time for Thursday night’s game at the Winnipeg Jets. But don’t expect the Caps to be eager to open things up and play up-and-down hockey against a team with less of a defensive approach.
Instead, the gauntlet provided the Caps with a blueprint.
“I think playing New Jersey and Nashville the last couple days and seeing how they commit – their whole team – to play defensive and offensive at the same time – and they work – we should learn from that,” defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “With the skill that we have, if we could put that all together and get everybody playing the way that they played us the last couple games, we’re going to be a lot better team.”
Captain Alex Ovechkin knows how much he and his teammates learned from a tight game like Tuesday that was decided by a couple mistakes.
“Of course it’s good lessons for us – especially when you play against what kind of team who play more defensive style than offensive style,” he said.
But Ovechkin argued that the Caps should be the ones dictating the tempo – not the opposition.
“We don’t have to play like them,’ he said. “We have to play our game, and they have to change and play our style.”
What is the Caps’ style? There have been different permutations of that over the past year or so.
Boudreau prefers the ability to play defense – without forgetting how to put the puck in the net.
“We don’t want to run and gun,” the coach said. “I’ve always believed, I don’t know why you can’t score a lot of goals and play great defensively as well, and that’s our goal. We think we can apply pressure and play really good defensively.”