- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

As much as anything else, a coach's job is to look for tendencies, to look for little things that are starting to unravel that might end up being major problems if not caught in the early stages.
The Washington Capitals are 2-0; coach Bruce Cassidy is undefeated at home and on the road. The team record for consecutive victories to start a season is four and that is certainly within reach.
But "there's lot of stuff that needs to be corrected," he said. "We could have dominated both games but as a coach you're always looking to fix things and get better."
Washington is 2-0 because it scored late goals in games against Nashville and the New York Islanders. It is 2-0 because it was able to overcome its own errors and its own inability to stay out of the penalty box.
Discipline, Cassidy admitted, is a problem. The Caps have taken 10 penalties in each of the first two games, an unusually high number and a trend that started in training camp. The problem arises when the Caps go to kill off the infraction the results this season are just about the same as they were last season, a success rate of about 82 percent. That's not good enough for a team hoping to drive deep into postseason.
"You can't continue to take eight, nine penalties a night," Cassidy said. "If they're calling obstruction ones and you're having a tough time adjusting, I can understand. But we're not moving our feet and the other ones are just discipline, retaliatory [penalties]. Those are the ones you've got to eliminate. You've got to learn to bite your tongue in this game some nights."
Some of the penalties can be attributed to a lack of experience. Rookie defenseman Steve Eminger, for instance, has eight penalty minutes second highest on the team but he is learning the ropes, learning what he can and cannot get away with in the NHL. But he is also playing very well for a rookie.
Others are simply taking lazy penalties hooking, tripping or getting caught being a little too physical along the boards.
"You have to be careful," Cassidy said. "You want to let your physical players go out and be intimidating. You've got to let them do their thing clear the front of the net, get under the other guy's skin. But at some point you draw the line. I think there's a time and place for those penalties and a time and place to draw the line."
The clear implication was that the time is approaching to draw the line. Cassidy and the entire organization are under pressure to make a success of the month of October rather than waste valuable points, which Caps teams have turned into something of a perverse tradition. Immediately ahead of the club are seven road games before it returns for its second and last home game of the month.
However, the Caps are way ahead of the game compared to last season. Three of their top penalty-killers, defenseman Calle Johansson and forwards Jeff Halpern and Steve Konowalchuk, have returned from injury, bolstering a unit that did not have much success last season. Newcomers Mike Grier and Robert Lang have given the team added depth in an area where it was badly needed, an area where fatigue was a factor a season ago.
"We're fortunate because Halpern and Konowalchuk do a lot of the killing and they're not out there a lot for the power play," Cassidy said.
Peter Bondra and Jaromir Jagr, paramount members of the power play, are two of the forwards who have been held back so far: "You can't ask them to do everything and do it at 100 percent," Cassidy said.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide