NEW YORK | Even if the Washington Capitals aren’t weary, they got rest Tuesday as part of an unexpected day off following their 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 3.
Coach Adam Oates canceled practice, which was scheduled for Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and decided to let his players rest up for Wednesday night’s Game 4.
“Part of the process is that every game is stressful, and anytime that we can get a chance to, maybe, let the guys not deal with the stress, we’ll give them that opportunity,” Oates said outside the team’s New York City hotel Tuesday morning. “It was late, what are you going to get accomplished today? Maybe mentally the day off, recharge the battery and go at it tomorrow.”
Oates said the team didn’t get back to its hotel until 1 a.m. Practice was supposed to be at 11:30 at the New Jersey Devils’ practice rink.
“It was pretty late, guys are banged up, stress, to go all the way over there, some guys still probably wouldn’t skate,” Oates said. “There’s always guys that would get maintenance days no matter what, so they’re not skating. There’s obviously a few guys that didn’t play as much that would want to, and, you know what, they got to maybe get a workout in.”
Still up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Caps players were a bit taken aback by Oates’ decision, given that they lost Monday night.
“I’m a little surprised, but rest is a weapon,” right wing Eric Fehr said. “That’s what all the veteran guys always say. We’re going to take it today we’re going to watch some video, we’re going to learn from it and we’re going to be better next game.”
The Rangers practiced at their facility at noon. Oates found more value in not skating.
“Rest obviously is the biggest weapon, most important weapon right now,” he said. “You’ve got to let the guys rest. It’s very stressful. Every moment of the game, everything is stressful. And every chance we get to let them re-charge, we’re going to do it.”
Oates ripped a page out of the Devils’ playbook during their 2012 run to the Stanley Cup Final. Coach Peter DeBoer routinely gave his players off between games during those playoffs, and that proved to be smart as New Jersey came two victories away from an improbable championship.
The rookie head coach knew it worked last year and also cited his playing career as a reason for the day off. Nineteen years in the NHL makes it easy for players to buy into Oates’ rationale.
“He was a player as well,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He knows how stressful these games can be, he knows how tough how these games can be to bounce back, and so he’s just trying to give us an opportunity to relax and like he says, clear our minds.”
Brouwer said he’d walk around the city, while Oates figured he’d be inside much of the day watching tape.
“It’s pretty tough [to relax],” Oates said. “The coaches, we didn’t sleep much. We’re going to watch the tape, try and come up with any little wrinkles we can.”
The Caps were scheduled for a team dinner at 6 p.m., but Oates implied that he wanted his players to get away from hockey for a little bit.
“It’s just a good opportunity for us to rest up,” Fehr said. “It’s been a pretty physical series, a pretty quick series so it’s a good day for us just to regroup and get ready for Game 4.”