October 30 vs. Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome
Time: 10:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (6-4-0)
Calgary Flames (6-4-0)
Washington concludes a three-game road trip with a Saturday night visit to Calgary for a Hockey Night in Canada date with the Flames. The game pits a pair of 6-4 teams coming off disappointing Thursday night performances.
A night after clicking on all cylinders in a 3-0 trip-opening victory at Carolina, the Caps were flat and listless for the better part of Thursday’s 2-1 setback in Minnesota.
Calgary scored five goals in just 19 shots on Colorado, but surrendered three goals in the third period to the visiting Avalanche in squandering a 3-1 lead. The Flames lost, 6-5.
Calgary coach Brent Sutter put his team through a tough practice on Friday, while Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau decided the best medicine for his team was to make them watch selected lowlights from Thursday’s loss to the Wild.
“We went over video for a while,” explains Boudreau. “It’s a tough call. I’m thinking, ‘Okay, should we go out there and give them a no pucks shellacking? Would that do better [for Saturday]?’ Or, if you do that, and some guys have got injuries and they’re not allowed to participate in it, is it worse? Because then you’ve got three-quarters of the team out there and you’ve got guys nursing injuries and if they go out there, do they re-hurt it? Or do you just watch video and make some threats?”
Washington captain Alex Ovechkin scored the team’s lone goal against the Wild, his first in five games. He spoke at length after Friday’s video session/meeting.
“We just watched the video,” says Ovechkin. “We didn’t compete hard and we didn’t make a challenge. We know how we have to play and how we can play. We just didn’t play well [the way] we played the night before in Carolina.
“Sometimes when you see the video you can see for yourself that you played a bad game. You can say the whole team played [poorly], but me personally I can say I didn’t play well the first couple periods. I didn’t shoot the puck the way I used to shoot it, didn’t get chances to create for my partners. Sometimes you just watch it and you can say you have to work harder and compete.”
Boudreau knows that his players will be contrite immediately after watching the horror show of Thursday night. What he wants is a string of consistent hockey as the Caps close out October’s schedule against the Flames and head into the second month of the campaign.
“Talk is cheap, though,” warns Boudreau. “We just saw a lot about it so it was fresh on their minds. We’ll see how that [translates] into [Saturday]. Winning properly is creating good habits. You can only be successful if those good habits are continuous. Anybody can win on talent one night in a while, but it’s good habits that will make you win continually.
“It’s all about the will and the wont. If you want to do it, you do it. If you don’t, you become a spoiled little player and we’ll see where it goes.”
Thursday’s loss marked the third time in the last five games that Washington scored exactly one goal. The Caps led the league in goals by a wide margin last season, but they rank 18th in the league in goals per game thus far in 2010-11. Washington has been much better in its own end, where it ranks fourth in the league with an average of 2.3 goals against per contest.
“I think it was important that we focus a little bit more on [defense] obviously,” says Caps blueliner Mike Green, “but we don’t want to take away from our offensive game which maybe has happened here a little bit. We need to find a balance now between both. We just need to focus more on our forecheck and creating turnovers because anytime we play a transition game we’re a good hockey club.”
Ten games in, most believe the Caps will start to score at or near their 2009-10 rate soon.
“It’s the same group of guys,” reminds Caps center David Steckel. “It’s always going to be one thing or the other. If we score a bunch of goals and don’t play defense I guess that’s one thing, and now we can’t score goals and we’re playing good defense. Goals will come. And we proved that all year last year. We’re not really squeezing the stick tighter. We need to compete harder in the offensive zone on the forecheck to get the puck back. Right now we might be doing a little too much watching.
“As far as defense goes, it’s the commitment to being defensively responsible, which we weren’t at times last year. Hence, we gave up a lot of goals and we were trying to outscore teams. This year, we’re defensively liable and responsible. Guys are moving their feet and we’re trying to be more aggressive. I think that’s the reason for the amount of shots we’ve given up, and the amount of goals we’ve given up.”
Going into Friday’s NHL activity, the Capitals’ power play ranked 25th in the league with a success rate of 10.5%. With a kill rate of 88.9% this season, Washington is the league’s fifth best team when shorthanded. The Caps have started to climb the face-off ladder; they’re 13th in the league with a 50.5% win rate.
For the Flames, Saturday’s game is the fourth in a five-game homestand. Calgary is 2-1 on the homestand to date.
Thursday’s hiccup against the Avalanche broke up a stretch in which the Flames had won three straight games and five of their previous six.
Blanked through the first 60 minutes of play in three of their first five games of the season, the Flames have more than found the range offensively since then. They’ve scored at least four goals in each of their last four games.
Going into Friday night’s slate of NHL action, Calgary is seventh in the league in goals scored and 16th in goals against.
After Friday’s practice, the Flames announced that they’ve signed defenseman Mark Giordano to a five-year contract extension, a pact that will result in an annual salary cap hit of $4.02 million. Calgary now has four defensemen – Girodano, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich – locked up through next season at a total cap cost of $18.32 million.
The Flames’ power play unit ranks 20th in the NHL with a 13.3% success rate. Calgary boasts the league’s sixth best penalty killing outfit with a kill rate of 87.8%. The Flames rank 24th in the league with a face-off win rate of 47.4%.
Both teams are likely to want a pair of points badly on Saturday at the Saddledome.
“Two teams that are motivated should make an interesting game,” says Boudreau. “I think it ends up in those kinds of games, a battle of wills. Who wants it more? Who is willing to pay a greater price for victory? It will be evident by 10 o’clock [Saturday] night.”