The Washington Times - May 2, 2012, 03:43PM

Something that would have been hard to envision two months ago was the Washington Capitals becoming a stellar road team. Through their first 31 road games this season, they were 10-18-3 and couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong.

In their past 16 road games, beginning Feb. 25 and counting through the first two games of the second round vs. the New York Rangers, the Caps are 10-5-1 away from Verizon Center.


You can’t predict hockey.

I think we’ve been playing, for the most part, extremely simple on the road. And thats why we’ve been playing well,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “You tend to want to play a little bit more run and gun at home. We’ve got to bring that over. Unfortunately for people watching, it wouldn’t be as fun of a game to watch, but that’s the way we’ve got to do it to win the game. We’ve just got to remind ourselves: Don’t get fancy. Don’t try to make those extra plays. That is the hardest part of playing at home.”

Returning home for Game 3 on Wednesday night, that’s the reminder the Caps have.

We have to be better at home: 1-2 so far is not good enough,” forward Brooks Laich said.

The Caps had the third-most home wins of Eastern Conference playoff teams and thrived at Verizon Center during the regular season. Coach Dale Hunter gets to exploit line-matching more at home, and this team does seem to feed off the crowd. So why hasn’t the success carried over so far?

It’s really hard to put a finger on it,” veteran forward Mike Knuble said. “I don’t know if home teams feel more pressure like we’ve got to perform – I don’t think we feel that I don’t think our fans are expecting that from us. I mean we just have to keep going with the same thing we’re doing.”

That means almost trying to play road hockey at home. But the Caps are far from the only team that has struggled at home. Road teams are 35-21 in this year’s playoffs.

Knuble said there has been an emphasis on starting fast and scoring first on the road that needs to be present at home as well.

We’d like to get our fans into it, whether it’s with a hit or a goal, some sort or way to get the building alive. But then you have to continue that,” said Laich, pointing to the Flyers scoring first Tuesday before the Devils controlled play and came back.

But three home games in these playoffs aren’t enough to make a full judgment.

It’s early enough in the whole playoff thing we can right the ship here at home and be a strong home team and match the strong play we’ve had on the road,” Knuble said.