The Washington Times - October 28, 2011, 08:12PM

VANCOUVER | The Vancouver Canucks aren’t playing up to their capabilities right now, as talk swirls about a so-called “Stanley Cup hangover” that also includes the Boston Bruins occupying last place in the Eastern Conference.

Things aren’t that bad for Vancouver, but they’re bad enough to make Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau a little worried.

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“I hate it when you’re playing a great team that’s lost two in a row. That’s what we’re doing,” Boudreau said. “We’re nervous because they’re mad.”

Mad at themselves, mad at the world – whatever that is, the Canucks used similar language to the Caps’ when discussing Saturday night’s game: That this is a major “test.”

Their record speaks for itself. They’ve been playing some really good hockey and they’ve not only been getting the wins but they’ve been playing some really hard hockey,” forward Manny Malholtra said of the Caps. “I think it’s a great test for us to have the top team in the league come here.”

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has been watching carefully as the Caps have gotten off to a 7-1-0- start.

“It’s got our attention, and it’s got our attention in a real strong way,” he said. “We’re going to have to play probably our best game of the year so far [Saturday] to beat such a strong team.”

Similarly, despite the Canucks’ 4-5-1 record, Caps players and Boudreau recognize this is close to the same team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

“They’re a great team. They’re just going through a minor rough patch. Those types of teams scare you because they’re due for a breakout, solid game,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for them. For us to be successful tomorrow night, we’re going to have to play our best game of the season.”

Sound familiar? When told of Vigneault’s nearly identical language, Laich wasn’t surprised.

“Mutual respect,” he said.