Coach Adam Oates was as visibly irritated as he’s been during his tenure with the Capitals Wednesday night following their ugly 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators. But after a day off on Thanksgiving, when the team reconvened at their practice facility Friday morning he decided to move forward and focus more on that night’s opponent than what transpired two days earlier.
“We talked more about Montreal than we did the other night,” Oates said. “It’s weird but it’s difficult to address that game when it’s on a game day again. They had a day off, so their minds go elsewhere. Like when I talked about it [Wednesday night], if guys weren’t upset after the game shame on them to begin with. Hopefully they’ve thought about it and today we turned a new page and focus on Montreal.”
Finding new ways to convey what often amounts to variations on the same message, whether game plan or how to correct particularly nagging mistakes, is one of the biggest challenges in coaching Oates has found. When a team makes the same errors over and over again, from turnovers to giving up a goal quickly after scoring one themselves he has to find new ways to make the goals and fixes stick.
“You just try to say the same things in a different fashion and hopefully a light bulb goes on somewhere for somebody. It’s hard to spin the same speech every day but you try,” Oates said. “Our job is to try and provide information and, no question, we get stale saying the same thing so you have to try to come up with different ways to say it. When you’re losing it’s harder because everybody’s a little sour, when you’re winning it’s easier. There’s always ways to do it.”
Washington hosts a Canadiens squad that has won four straight, including last week’s victory at Verizon Center, and five of their last six. Montreal’s outscored opponents 15-7, haven’t allowed more than two goals in any game during this winning streak and are riding a wave of confidence.
The Capitals will need a steady game from everyone, top to bottom, and one that doesn’t waver depending on the situation.
“When we’re playing our system and follow the game plan I think we’re a good team but sometimes we try to be too cute, maybe got to chip it in, get the puck a little deeper and not get as many turnovers as we have the last couple games. That’s something we’ve got to take care of,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who agreed with Oates’s assessment from Wednesday night that the Capitals elite offensive players including himself have to know when making simple, correct plays is the best course of action.
“We need to dump the puck too. We need to get on the forecheck a little better. Those games that we’ve been forechecking good, all three together, especially our line we’re good,” Backstrom said. “When we’re not chipping the puck, skating, working together that’s when you get in a little trouble, not getting any chances.”