- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2002

It was almost a paradox, the way Washington Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy explained it yesterday. He said he was somewhat disappointed but not totally displeased with the team's 8-10-2 performance in the season's first quarter but also said the club's play often is poor and must be picked up if the team is to be a contender.
Washington concluded its first 20 games with a 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night, but the game could have been a tie at worst if the Caps had come to the rink ready to work from the time the first puck was dropped. Less than a minute into the first period, with its top line and top defensive pair on the ice, Washington allowed an odd-man rush that turned into a goal. Thus, Washington played from behind for 59:07.
Asked if his team took the Wild too lightly, Cassidy replied, "I don't know if that's the case. Minnesota was ready to play out of the gate, and we weren't. And that hasn't been unusual this season. And when you're losing and you get in a hole, it gets in your head. Players start thinking, 'Here we go again.' We got to get that attitude out and get off to a better start."
Cassidy spared virtually no one for the sluggish start. He said the most frustrating thing for him was to repeat instructions over and over and then watch as players ignore what they have been told and come up short.
"Our play away from the puck, our urgency out of the gate, allowing an odd-man rush that early in the game, some things we had addressed, not buying into what we're selling," he said were the main problems.
"It's tough to talk [to the team] about things you know Minnesota is going to do, and [Minnesota] goes out and does it pretty much unimpeded for the majority of the game," Cassidy said. "We always seem to bounce back when we're in a hole so we're trying to get the guys to realize you can't dig a hole every night. Teams are too good at defending."
The Caps are 4-4-0 at home but a respectable 4-6-2 on the road. But the club has some woeful stats to back up Cassidy's claims. Among them: Washington is being outshot 227-168 in the first period and is being outscored 18-8 over the same span.
"At some point, the players have to decide that, if they agree with what we're telling them, they have to get out and get it done," he said. "I'm not taking the easy way out, don't get me wrong, but they've got to realize they've got to be ready to play [from the start]. …
"We have to put the urgency on ourselves and maybe treat it like a playoff game to turn this thing around. Instead of worrying about whom the next opponent is, the players have to come and worry about themselves, get themselves ready to play."
The Caps are winless (0-4-1) in five games.
Notes Left wing Peter Bondra did not skate yesterday but took treatment instead on his ailing back. He left the game Thursday night after the first period with back spasms, something he said he hasn't had before. There are several things that can bring on the ailment, including stress, fatigue and trauma. Bondra was listed as day-to-day. …
The Caps recalled right wing Ivan Ciernik from Portland as a precaution in case Bondra can't go. Even if Bondra can play, Ciernik probably will get a chance to show what he can do. Portland coach Tim Army recommended three players worthy of call-up and Cassidy picked Ciernik, who has four goals and 10 points in 13 games. …
The Caps will honor Rod Langway in a pregame ceremony. Langway, the long-time Washington defenseman and captain, was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Nov. 4.


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