PHILADELPHIA — Around the league, the Washington Capitals are considered a star-studded team, especially with Alex Ovechkin a headliner when he comes to town. His fellow "Young Guns" — center Nicklas Backstrom, forward Alexander Semin and defenseman Mike Green — only add to that reputation.
But maybe it's a rep the Capitals are trying to shake. Asked a basic question after Tuesday night's game about Semin's game, coach Bruce Boudreau made a point to emphasize how well the team is playing.
"It's not about individuals," Boudreau said. "I think we've spent way too much time worrying about individuals in the years here. And now it's worrying about let's see how the team does. It's all about the group as far as I'm concerned."
With all the talk about Boudreau setting a new, more "serious" tone this season, shying away from individual praise is another example of a sharpened focus on winning together at all costs — something that has been successful so far.
No one will admit if ex-Capital Matt Bradley's criticism this summer of Semin had any effect on Washington's changes or harder practices, and Bradley - who has since apologized — didn't want to take credit. What players will say is there is an emphasis on team this time around.
"It is something that we have talked about and something that's pretty obvious to have success it's got to be done by committee, not just one guy," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We're winning games, so it doesn't really matter about one individual right now."
Going into Thursday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers, 10 different Capitals had scored goals — including left wing Jason Chimera with four. As much as top players haven't put up big numbers, the supporting cast has chipped in.
That's good preparation for springtime.
"You ever know what happens come playoff time — a couple guys might go cold and you need everybody else to pick it up," Alzner said.
Balanced scoring is not a coincidence, either. Boudreau's self-described "rant" is put into practice as he has rolled all four lines pretty consistently and counted on contributions up and down the lineup.
That's a bit of a change, right wing Mike Knuble said, but not a bad one because it means not taxing top players.
"Bruce is really spreading out key moments and time and giving different key moments in a game to different players," Knuble said. "As a player you've got be ready. It might not be you every night. Sometimes if you knew you had that role, it was going to be that every night."
Naturally the Capitals still want the likes of Ovechkin and Backstrom to lead the charge, and the captain said the team needs to improve all-around.
"I think ... everybody wants to have higher numbers than they have right now," Ovechkin said. "We try to be better."
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