What should the Washington Capitals take from a thorough beating of the Florida Panthers?
“We’ve got to throw the tape away,” coach Adam Oates said. “The league’s not that easy.”
Don’t take confidence from a 7-1 victory or get too high off it. Just like a bad loss, the Caps simply want to move on.
The one thing that could carry over to this weekend’s back-to-backs at the New York Islanders and against the Rangers is a lighter workload that Oates was able to give defenseman John Carlson and other big-minute players.
“That was probably the best thing about the game,” Oates said. “In the big picture, hopefully those minutes matter down the road.”
Down the road could be March 31, when the Caps play their 14th game in 25 days. Or it could be this weekend amid back-to-back afternoon games with plenty of travel mixed in.
Carlson, whose duties have been ratcheted up in the absence of No. 1 defenseman Mike Green, played a season-low 16:49 Thursday night. Captain Alex Ovechkin played just 17:32, center Mike Ribeiro 16:29 and center Nicklas Backstrom 16:20.
Because the game was so out of hand, recently signed defenseman Steve Oleksy led the team in ice time with 22:13.
That’s some good experience for a guy playing his second career NHL game. And it’s even better for Carlson to have a rest, given how heavily the Caps are leaning on him in all situations.
“I think that’s going to help a lot in the end, taking probably seven, eight minutes away from Carly, which can do a lot of damage to a guy,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “That’s huge.”
Carlson, who played as much as 30:34 in a game as Green is out of the lineup with a groin injury, isn’t worried about the extra ice time.
“I don’t make those decisions,” the 23-year-old defenseman said. “I just go out there and play when my number is called. And maybe a little rest will help me. I felt good today. So who knows? It’s gonna be a whacky month. So I guess any time you can get a chance we really got to take care of ourselves this month.”
With 16 games crammed into March because of the compressed schedule, Caps players were well-aware of this grind and how to handle it.
This particular stretch of three games in four days is a challenge.
“You’ve just got to take care of the body, get a lot of sleep, eat healthy, be ready to go and play smart,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “We don’t need to come out and play run-and-gun hockey. We need to play our system, play smart and it’ll take care of itself.”