Monday, March 17, 2008

Boudreau Discusses Tightness

Capitals 2, Bruins 1 OT/SO (2-0)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

I thought I would catch your eye with that title. We will get to Bruce Boudreau's comments in a bit. But first, the Caps pulled out a big win and it certainly didn't come easy. Even with the Bruins missing Zdeno Chara, Boston clamped down on the high flying Caps. It did it make for heavy drama in Chinatown.

Sergei Fedorov scored his first goal as a Capital (only his 10th on the year) and Cris Huet showed why he was one helluva goaltender as the Caps get two points via the shootout. Ideally the Caps would have loved to come out with 2 points and leave Boston with nothing, but I also want a swimming pool lined with gold (some things just aren't in the cards).

The Caps were able to hold off the Bruins who suddenly found their offensive spark, but they didn't do it the easy way. Milan Jurcina allowed the Bruins to tie the game in the second with some pretty stupid penalties. But Huet was up to the task, and the Caps survived a third period onslaught of Bruin attacks. He stopped 39 shots, allowing only a power play goal by him. The Caps survived overtime then took it to the shoot out. Both Alex Semin and Viktor Kozlov scored while Huet was made a stellar save on Chuck Kobasew and the Bruins were held scoreless in the SO.

The Caps gladly snatch up their two points and now find themselves just 2 points from Philly for eighth. They are still 5 points from Carolina (who won again) and still tied with Florida (who have also been successful in keeping pace). The Caps still have a game on Carolina and Florida, but lost their game advantages to both the Flyers and the Sabres. And things don't get any easier.

Now the Caps hit the road as the phone booth plays host to the NCAA basketball tournament and the Circus (everyone loves the Circus). Six games on the road where they will face off with Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay and finally Florida to round out the month of March. The last four against all Southeast Division foes if you weren't paying attention.

Bruce Boudreau talked about how tight the players were in his post game comments. It's something that plagued them the last few games that were huge. "It looked like we were afraid to make a mistake instead of, 'Let's go get them,' and play the way we can," Boudreau said. "That's the difference between teams that aren't in it, they play loose... A lot of times they're beating the other teams because they're playing loose. We were tight a little bit out there because of the importance of the game."

I couldn't agree more. The Caps do tend to psych themselves out when it comes to big games or "must win" situations. If not for Fedorov's heroics (he looked pretty calm to me putting the puck in the net), the Caps may have never scored. That is what veteran leadership can bring to this team. So many times the Caps have rolled over, too scared to make a mistake that they don't play their game. The other team takes advantage, and soon they are making mistakes because they aren't playing their game.

Under Glen Hanlon, it was X's and O's and if the Caps lost it was because they didn't know them well enough. But these guys know it and it's time to push past whatever mental hangups they have and just play the game. The X's and O's will always be there, this team has the talent and the know how to completely control a game. Just play. Do what you know you can do. Boudreau knows it isn't a strategy problem like Hanlon fell back on, it's an attitude adjustment. They need some of that kind of swagger for the next six games.

An interesting moment happened last night that made me smile. At the end of the game Fedorov and Olie Kolzig were the last ones off the ice. Both gave each other a pat on the back and a wide smile. My, how life has changed in the past ten years for both players. It's hard to describe what I was feeling seeing that moment the two veteran players shared, but I couldn't help but smile seeing two old foes walk off victors.

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