NHL playoffs

Washington Capitals seek a different ending

After being upset in seven games by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Washington Capitals were stunned. Here's what the Capitals believe they've learned about succeeding in the playoffs after last year's stinging defeat.

Make the small things count

Brooks Laich

This season has been about the method, the process by which the Capitals earn their wins — not how many wins they earn. To a man, players have discussed building solid habits: working hard in the corners, clearing the puck out of the defensive zone cleanly, avoiding taking lazy stick penalties, and so on. That attention to detail has been aimed at ensuring they are ingrained in the players' habits for the playoffs.

When the team was scoring bushel baskets of goals and winning games via a track meet, the entertainment value often trumped a heightened focus on the little things. It was hard to find fault with the way the Capitals were playing when they were winning.

When the goals didn't come, however, those errors grew more glaring.

"Little mistakes can be overlooked when you score so many goals," forward Brooks Laich, left, said. "Things always tighten up in the playoffs, and those little things come into play. . . .You can't just turn it on and turn it off. These little things that we talk about are habits, work ethic habits, attention to detail habits, and those have to be developed through months and months so that when the playoffs come they're just second nature."

By Katie Carrera - The Washington Post. Published April 13, 2011.