There have been a few games under Coach Dale Hunter that appeared like it could be the contest to get the Capitals over the hump from this see-saw of success one night and failure the next. Washington’s 4-1 win over the Rangers is just the latest example.
If the Capitals want that victory to be more than a blip on the radar screen, more than a teasing example of what they’re capable of amid a mess of contests riddled with errors then they must find a way to take the positive traits from Wednesday’s win and roll them into ensuing games.
Back-to-back games this weekend, home against Buffalo Friday and on the road at Columbus Saturday, seem like the perfect opportunity to either build off the win or knock themselves back a peg.
“I think the preparation is the biggest thing. I think we knew what we had coming in against New York, knew how good they were playing,” Jason Chimera said. “Guys, I don’t know if they were scared of getting hammered on, but that fear of playing bad we’ve got to have that. We’ve got to want to play better and have those games and get back up there.”
A big part of extending the success will be getting off to another strong start on Friday when they host the Buffalo Sabres, who have embarrassed the Capitals twice already this season. As frustrating as those lackluster performances are, the flashes of being tough to play against that Washington shows reminds the players that they’re capable of it — they just need to do it.
“I think it gives us a little extra confidence going in tomorrow and knowing that we have the ability to do it,” Matt Hendricks said. “We know we have it in this room. We showed it last night and now it’s that consistency we’ve talked about all season. We need to continue and have that great start again tomorrow night.”
Under Hunter, here is how the following games after potential momentum-building wins played out:
* After a 3-2 win against Ottawa on Dec. 3, the Capitals fell behind and looked sloppy in a 5-4 loss to Florida.
* Following consecutive wins at Ottawa and home against Toronto, the Capitals were waxed 5-1 by the Philadelphia Flyers Dec. 13.
* A stingy, 1-0 road win in Winnipeg on Dec. 15 was followed by a 2-1 disjointed loss in Colorado.
* And a pair of defeats to New Jersey and Buffalo with lackluster starts came in the two games immediately after a thorough 4-1 win over Nashville on Dec. 20.
So no, one well-played game certainly does not mean that the Capitals have righted their course. But at this point it’s up to the players to show that they can string wins together with consistently strong play to get the team back on track completely.
“We’ve gotta play like that every night. You can’t just do it one game,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “If you’re going to climb the standings you’ve gotta make sure you do it every night. That’s what we’ve got to do it’s been too much on and off our game, you can’t do that.”