Monday, April 20, 2009

It's All About Playing Better

Enough of the demons and exorcisms. No more playoff beards or rocking the red. You don't have to eat the same meal you ate before every game this year or wear the same underwear. None of that matters right now for the Washington Capitals.

There's no need to be long-winded, humorous or derisive at this point. I'm going to keep it simple, just like the Caps need to. Tonight - and the success or failure of this season - hinges on one thing: making a 60-minute (or longer) commitment to playoff hockey.

Simplified that means:

1) Play fast - vertically, not horizontally
2) Take the puck to the outside, get it in deep and forecheck like there's no tomorrow
3) If you lose the puck, skate hard, backcheck and then get the heck off the ice so fresh players can jump on
4) Play physical, but within the flow of the game; don't go out of your way to be physical
5) Put people who get near your goalie on their backs
6) No lazy penalties - shorter shifts
7) Go to the net when you don't have the puck
8) Shoot the puck on net when a teammate is moving in that direction
9) Do not let Lundqvist see the puck
10) Treat EVERY player like he's Sean Avery

Bruce Boudreau has said many times this year that the Caps are "too cute." The great news is that they often are talented enough to get away playing that style. The bad news is that it's not working right now. Boudreau also said that last year he thought it took the Caps a few games to learn what it takes to win in the playoffs. He had hoped that learning curve would be shortened or eliminated this year, but apparently it hasn't. Still, it's not too late. I'm pretty confident the Caps will dominate the game tonight. The question that lingers, though, is whether Lundqvist will be too good and steal another win for the Rangers. That's why this 2-0 hole seems so enormous right now.

The Caps need a few breaks, but you make your own breaks by how you play. If they commit to a playoff style, everything will work out fine. I'm just fearful that some guys currently in the lineup may not be capable of making that commitment. We will soon find out. Faceoff in less than two hours.

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