October 10 vs. Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (2-1-1)
Detroit Red Wings (1-2)
Washington takes on its fourth Original Six opponent in its first five games when it visits the Red Wings in the Motor City on Saturday night.
A day after losing a third period lead in a 4-3 home ice loss to the New York Rangers, the Caps reassembled for practice and a video session on Friday before departing for Detroit. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau did not take the ice with his team.
While assistant coaches Dean Evason and Bob Woods ran practice, Boudreau pored over video from the loss to the Rangers. His assessment of what he saw is fairly consistent with what his players said after the game, too.
“It’s the inconsistency,” says Boudreau. “I just thought that there were certain times where the work ethic in that game was better by the Rangers than it was by [the Capitals]. They wanted it a little bit more for whatever reason. I wanted to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Center Nicklas Backstrom scored two of Washington’s goals and vaulted into the league scoring lead in the process. But he also thought the Caps’ effort against New York left a bit to be desired.
“I think they outworked us tonight and I think they wanted to win more than us,” Backstrom said, shortly after the game ended. “That’s a bad thing. We have to get back like we started the season. We have to play 60 minutes. We just played a couple minutes this game.”
“I don’t think we competed as well as we could for as long as we needed to,” said Caps defenseman Brian Pothier. “Intensity wasn’t there, and our focus was off tonight. I think it came down to they just outworked us.”
After allowing a single goal in the season opener at Boston last week, Washington has surrendered 14 goals in its last three games. An alarming number of those tallies are coming late in games.
“We’ve given up eight third-period and overtime goals in four games,” says Boudreau. “It’s way too much. I just told the guys, ‘The only thing in this world that is free are habits.’ You want to consistently get into good habits.
“In the Toronto game, we allowed three goals [in the third period]. Yes, we won and we won going away but that was the start of a bad habit and a trend. The next [game] in Philadelphia, they score one late and then they score in overtime. [Thursday] night [the Rangers] score two in the third period. So it’s a habit. We have to make sure we break it right away.”
The Caps seem to play well early in games, but once the lamp lights for the first time, the team gets more caught up in trying to score than in preventing its opponent from scoring.
“I think that’s sort of our M.O.,” admits Pothier. “It’s going to be sort of our cross to bear this year. Our offensive ability; we’re so explosive and so dynamic. Sometimes we get in this mindset of go, go, go and we forget about the defensive side of things. It’s something we need to address. If we want to be a great team, that’s something that we need to make a commitment to.”
There has been a good amount of talk this week from some of Washington’s veteran leaders about the difference between “good” and “great.” The Caps aspire to greatness, and they realize they are not there yet.
“It’s a standard in the locker room that you’ve got to set,” states veteran winger Mike Knuble, the only Washington player with a Stanley Cup ring. “It’s like a team standard and we all need to understand that there is a certain level of play we need to have every night, and when we do we’re going to be successful.”
After opening the season with a pair of losses to St. Louis in Sweden, Detroit returned to North America and notched its first win of the season on Thursday night, taking down the Chicago Blackhawks by a 3-2 count at Joe Louis Arena.
The Wings’ 0-2 start marked the first time they’d dropped a pair of games to start the season since 1989-90.
Goaltender Chris Osgood struggled in the Red Wings’ season opener, but he stopped 32 of 34 shots he faced against the Blackhawks.
The win did not come without cost to the Wings. Detroit right wing Johan Franzen suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and will miss the next four months of action. Franzen was a 34-goal scorer for the Wings last season and he supplied the game-winning goal in Thursday’s home opener against Chicago.
Detroit set an NHL record last season when it registered its ninth straight season with 100 or more points. The Montreal Canadiens were the previous record holders, reaching the century mark in eight straight seasons from 1974-82.
The Wings have won 50 or more games in each of the four seasons since the lockout, becoming the third team in NHL history to record 50 or more victories in four successive seasons.
Detroit’s current streak of 18 consecutive seasons with a playoff berth is the longest in professional sports.
Lidstrom nearing 1,000 When Lidstrom does reach the millennium mark, he will become the eighth blueliner in league history to do so, joining, Ray Bourque (1,579 points), Paul Coffey (1,531), Al MacInnis (1,274), Phil Housley (1,232), Larry Murphy (1,216), Denis Potvin (1,052) and Brian Leetch (1,028).
Osgood is just 10 wins shy of becoming only the 10th netminder in NHL history to record 400 or more career wins.