The finish line is in sight, with just three games remaining between the Washington Capitals and the postseason. Yet, unlike last season when they held a comfortable lead atop the Eastern Conference, the Capitals have plenty left to play for.
Knotted with the Philadelphia Flyers at the top of the Eastern Conference with 103 points, Washington has three games remaining to capture the top seed.
Though that undoubtedly is the end result most desired, the message in the locker room at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Monday was that cleaning up their play, even on the heels of a three-game homestand in which they earned five of a possible six points, is perhaps even more important than where they finish in the standings.
It echoed the message Coach Bruce Boudreau delivered following Washington’s 5-4 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
The Capitals have given up leads in their last three games, and sloppy play had Boudreau saying, “We’ve got to buckle down a little bit.”
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to [play in] the last two games, obviously,” winger Jason Chimera said. “We got away with a couple wins. You can’t play that way come postseason, so I think we’ve got to get a whole lot better.”
The Capitals spent time reviewing film on Monday morning and it was in those sessions that players saw some small mistakes that could prove costly in the postseason. The details, veteran Mike Knuble said, could seem as small as positioning two feet to one direction instead of the other.
“It sounds like it’s not a big deal, but it’s the difference between winning and losing the game, between scrambling to win a game in overtime last game or finishing the game strong and winning 4-2,” Knuble said. “So it’s just these little things that we’re always trying to work on. You’re never going to play a perfect game; you’re just trying to eliminate some of these things that you can put your thumb on. Sometimes things happen, guys make good plays, it’s when we’re contributing to those plays that we want to eliminate.”