For the second day in a row, Bruce Boudreau meant business. The coach started practice with about 10 minutes worth of sprints and end-to-end rushes -- and things never really slowed down.
"If you're not going to work hard in the game, you're going to work hard in practice," Boudreau said afterward at Toyota Sports Center. "If we didn't have an afternoon practice and an afternoon game, we would have been out there for an hour and a half. You can do it once or twice a year, but you don't want to get in the habit of doing it, because all of a sudden, it loses its validity."
Whether his players got the message will be revealed tomorrow afternoon at Staple Center, where they face the Kings in a matinee matchup. The Kings are the only team Boudreau has faced more than once that he has yet to beat. (They're also his former employer.)
The lines were the same as yesterday. And, as Boudreau promised, the majority of today's workout was dedicated to polishing up the power play, which went 0 for 4 against the Sharks and is 4 for 21 in the past six games.
Boudreau implemented three units: Brooks Laich, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin up front with Brendan Morrison and Mike Green on the points; Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Knuble and Nicklas Backstrom as forwards and Green and Tom Poti on the points; and Fleischmann, Knuble and Backstrom up front with Poti and Ovechkin on the points.
Personnel, though, isn't the problem in Boudreau's mind.
"It's usually the same message," he said. "[The power play] rises to the top [of the league]. Then we get too cute, too cute and you have to keep reminding them. I relate everything to having children. You tell them, they do it for a little while, they're good at it, then they forget about it. And the next thing their room is a mess and you have to get on them again."
"We've got good players," he added. "[The power play] has been in the top five all year. We don't need new personnel; we just need them to do the job better."
Knuble said: "At times, when you have guys with a ton of skill, the tendency is to use that skill. But that's not always best way. Sometimes making an aerial pass over a stick or two, when you can be safer and get off a shot, that's better than putting the puck up for grabs because it can get knocked down."
Boudreau also had the players work 2-on-1s and breakaways. Usually when a coach does that, it's meant as a confidence builder for the shooters, since they're supposed to score.
Before practice, Boudreau had the players sit through a lengthy video session. The focus, he said, was the team's sloppy play in the neutral zone and defensive zone recently. The Caps yielded 11 goals in the past two contests and also permitted way too many odd man rushes.
"Defensive zone is really important, but it's also simple," Boudreau said. "It's about being committed to blocking out, blocking shots, moving your legs and outworking the opposition. We showed a lot of goals from the last two games where we just weren't outworking the opposition. And when you're not outworking the opposition, you're going to get scored on. That was the key. Sometimes you lose that and you have to find a way to get it back. We don't want it to spin out of control."
On San Jose's "first good [scoring chance], [Eric] Fehr was out to lunch on it," Boudreau added. "On those kind of things, it's the gaps between our forwards and their defense or our forwards and their forwards. When the [gaps are] good, we're good and we allow 18 to 25 shots. When they're not good, they get over 30 shots."
Fehr, it seems, has found his way into Boudreau's doghouse. The big winger has been dropped to the fourth line with grinders Quintin Laing, David Steckel and Boyd Gordon. One of those four forwards could find themselves as a healthy scratch tomorrow.