More often than not, teams would prefer to get off to a strong start in games on a nightly basis. For the Capitals, finding their legs early will be important against Winnipeg, which has gone 7-3-1 since the last time the two teams met at MTS Centre in November.
Washington has struggled in Canada this season, going 1-4 north of the border, with the lone win coming under Coach Dale Hunter on Dec. 7 in Ottawa. But few teams seem to do well in their visits to Winnipeg, where the Jets are 10-4-0 this season. They’ve won five straight here heading into the meeting with the Capitals.
“We want to score the first goal, of course, but we want to go into the first intermission feeling good about our game — if not having a lead, than at least being tied. We need that for confidence,” Karl Alzner said. “We just watched some of their video and they like to come really fast. They’re a great transition team and we can’t give them that momentum. With the crowd and everything they’ll get amped up quick and that spells trouble.”
MTS Centre is the smallest building in the NHL with a capacity crowd of 15,004, but those spectators like to get involved as early as possible. In addition to the regular cheers, the crowd in Winnipeg will chirp an opponent early, often and loudly, with much of the building jumping in on the jeers. If Washington can find some early success against the Jets it may be able to take the crowd energy out of the equation.
Winnipeg is 10-4-2 when scoring first this season and 10-2-0 when leading at the end of 20 minutes. The Capitals are 7-5-1 when scoring first and 6-1-1 when exiting the first period with a lead, but they’ve struggled on the road, going 5-8-0 away from Verizon Center. A fast start isn’t a cureall by any means, but it certainly couldn’t hurt, either.
“We need to generate whatever kind of momentum we can and get involved early and try making more plays,” Joel Ward said. “If we can get off to a fast start and get the first one, try to slow them down a bit, I think we’ll have more success. Hopefully boost our confidence, too.”
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