The scene in “Miracle” where Kurt Russell, playing Herb Brooks, forces his team back on the ice after a shoddy effort was broached after Capitals practice Wednesday. Bruce Boudreau put his team through one hell of a bag skate, but it wasn’t anything like that.
“I’ve never understood, quite frankly, because I’ve had it happen, the Herb Brookses where you play the game and you lose and you get back to the arena and you put the wet equipment on and you skate for two hours and you put it on auto pilot,” the Caps’ coach said. “But if we’re going to work hard I don’t want to waste a day. We can work hard and be productive at the same time, I think.”
All in all, the Caps were on ice for nearly an hour and a half. There was a round of suicide sprints, a bout of one-on-one battles, more drills, more sprints and a game of two-on-two battles in the corner. And then more sprints.
Brooks Laich said it was “much-needed.” Captain Alex Ovechkin said it was a “wake-up call.” Cody Eakin said it was among the toughest bag skates during his young career.
“Yeah – that was pretty tough. Anytime you get limited shooting drills in a practice and lots of just changing the drill and lots of skating, it’s going to be tough,” Eakin said.
Players were huffing and puffing. Many were doubled over trying to catch their breath. But veteran players especially said they understood the point.
“In the long run, I think when I’ve been on teams that we’ve been put through that, there’s a response more times than not. And your team will come with a better response the next game. It’s an old coaching trick, but it works,” Mike Knuble said. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel some times – the old skate gets the message.
“We’ve all come up and been at this game for a long time, and it seems like whenever a coach wants to make a message to get it out of you out there, they can talk all they want in the locker room and show you all the video they want, but that’s the one way they can really get it out of you and that’s on the ice. Because you pay the price out there.”
Players not only paid the price with the sprints – four full rounds of them – but battles that included some pretty physical play among teammates.
“I think they worked hard. It was a fairly tough practice and I didn’t hear any of them complaining,” Boudreau said. “They just knew that they had to put their work boots on.”
Work boots – and some smiles. Boudreau and his assistants knew they were going to put the players through a tough practice, but they made sure it included some fun in the form of the two-on-two game. The assistant coaches pushed the nets 20 feet apart, one goalie in each, tossed the puck into the corner and let players go at it. Jeff Halpern and others seemed to enjoy it.
“The one thing that it shows no matter how tired you are you can have fun if you’re working hard. They were smiling and laughing and yet they were kicking the crap out of each other,” Boudreau said. “Hard work doesn’t necessarily have to mean punishment. If you want to compete it can be fun.”