While it’s nice for the Capitals to finally be the team that earned extra rest, the players and Coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday that they’re all very conscious of the need to remain sharp in the upcoming days.
So although the Capitals don’t know which team they will face in the Eastern Conference semifinals, they want to keep working on maintaining their own level of play.
“It’s just about staying focused at the task at hand,” Boudreau said, “not to let yourself get lost in the summer-type atmosphere, which is why we want everybody at the rink every day, all the time.”
Only a handful of players took part in the optional practice Monday and those who also appeared in Game 5 against the Rangers were goaltender Michal Neuvirth, defensemen Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine along with forwards Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson, Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks and Matt Bradley.
While the players were all given the option for a second day off if they wanted it, some, like Neuvirth, said they prefer the routine and rhythm of skating on most days.
“I think one day off is good enough; that’s why I skate today,” said Neuvirth, who was asked about the challenge of playing after a long time between games. “It’s always tough when you’re not playing a lot of games. You feel rusty in the first game back. We had a good day off yesterday and we’ve just gotta focus on getting ready for the next round.”
Said Jason Chimera: “We just have to not get complacent, not get lazy. I think the practices have got to be really good; the practices have to be upbeat. Sometimes it sucks when you have to practice for three or four days in a row without a game, but you’ve got to stay focused.”
While the Capitals can’t develop ways to counteract opposing schemes, they want to keep perfecting their own systems during the time between series and perhaps add a new wrinkle or two. It’s valuable time that they might not necessarily have in the middle of a series or as the postseason continues, depending on how things play out the rest of the way.
“I think we have to continue doing what we’re doing and not get satisfied with what’s happened,” Boudreau said when asked what he wants to work on during the break. “Staying at the level we’re at or increasing, and getting better, is the thing that has to happen. You’re ramping it up even more, because every series is going to get tougher.”