Following the Capitals’ loss to the Lightning in Game 1 Friday, Coach Bruce Boudreau remarked that in the middle of the contest his squad had reverted back to a previous style of play.
Their shifts were a little too free-flowing, too run-and-gun and they began to cheat up ice in search of goals to expand their lead. Suddenly, Washington didn’t look much like the team that had grown comfortable over the past several months winning one-goal games.
“I don’t know why they reverted back,” Boudreau said. “I think they just got caught up in wanting to score when it was 2-1; thinking this was going to be easy. And [they] wanted to make it 3-1 and 4-1 rather than just batten down the hatches and being patient for our opportunities to score.”
Washington’s game has consistently relied on a strong forecheck, but the Lightning like to make establishing that presence exceedingly difficult. At times in Game 1 rather than make sure the puck was dumped into the offensive zone correctly and pursued properly players tried to carry it over the blueline and were absorbed by Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1.
Even when that style of play didn’t work, the Capitals continued to try to trade chances and rushes with the Lightning. Tampa Bay is deceiving in the sense that while it boasts so much speed up front, it often tries to slow the pace down and await mistakes from its opponent before turning the jets on. Unlike the Rangers, who were aggressive in the corners and along the boards, Tampa Bay’s offense can and will create scoring chances off the rush.
“I think they play a frustrating style of game and guys get frustrated with it and try to do stuff on their own which is never, ever a good thing,” Jason Chimera said. “You’ve got to dump it in. If you can’t get it -- big deal. You can make them come all the way and you’ve got to have patience. You can’t try to force things and when things aren’t going your way, you’ve got to do stuff as a team not do stuff as individuals out there.”
Patience was a popular word in the Washington dressing room Saturday as the players stated that they didn’t have enough of it against Tampa Bay, even though a calmness under pressure in tight games is something its shown a great aptitude for. The Capitals have gone 28-10-11 in one-goal games this season.
“I’d say it’s patience. We have to know our opportunities will come,” Eric Fehr said when asked what the biggest element to beating Tampa Bay’s system is. “We still have to make the proper dumps and the proper plays at the blueline, though. You could sit back there all day make passes back and forth but you’ve still gotta score goals to win. If they aren’t going to let us into the zone easy and stick handling isn’t going to work we’ve got to be aware and find other ways.”
That rule particularly applies to when the Capitals establish a lead as well. In Game 1 when they came so close to adding a third, perhaps even a fourth, goal in helter-skelter scrums around the Tampa Bay net the thought of running up the score overshadowed the Capitals’ regular message of staying the course.
“I think we’ve learned how important that is here in playoffs to play that way and not get too ahead of ourselves,” Mike Green said. “We have to reel ourselves in and make sure that when we’re up a goal we play the same way and stay focused, because when we play our game plan and our mindset as a unit we’re pretty effective. We’ve got to make sure we get that back.”