Ten games into the season, they're not exactly America's hockey team, but the Washington Capitals are beginning to "do a lot of things pretty well," according to Coach Bryan Murray.
"There is still the need for a fair amount of improvement," he said after his team beat the Blues, 6-5, Saturday night. "But I thought we showed more concern in our own zone. We're starting to attack the net more, be more disciplined."
Murray said the Capitals' penalty killing has become more consistent and, overall, the team is gradually improving on "little things that add up."
"But (winning) one game doesn't mean we're happy with everything," he said. "Now we need that consistent play from Dave (Parro) and Pat (Riggin) and everybody."
Murray has been working his goaltenders harder in practice, making them participate more actively in drills. Riggin's performance against the Blues, he said, demonstrated that he can play better through physical conditioning.
"Pat worked extremely hard. Now it's performance we've got to see."
Murray was happy with Dennis Maruk's performance Saturday. Maruk, who scored a power play goal as well as the game winner, skated on the left wing of Doug Jarvis' line.
"I had wanted to give Doug some more ice time," Murray said. "And I had talked to Dennis about maybe moving to left wing. He was all for it. He's been struggling, so I thought this might help get him cranked up."
Originally, Murray intended to "flip him back to center after maybe half a game. But it worked so well I left him there."
However, left wing was a quick fix, not a permanent solution for Maruk's slow start. "We'd be kidding ourselves if we said he'd be there all the time. Dennis is a center ice man."
The Capitals (3-6-1) still have not won at home this season. They meet the Black Hawks in Chicago on Wednesday before returning to face St. Louis at Capital Centre Friday.
"There is always pressure to do well at home, because you want to show people you'e a good team," Murray said. "But we've had a week away and almost a whole other week before getting back. Some of the guys have improved, we've got more confidence."
And the Capitals will be facing teams such as St. Louis, Hartford and New Jersey.
"The first 11 games we have a dreadful schedule, and with one exception (Buffalo) we played realistically," Murray said. "Now we start to play teams that we are more than comparable to," Murray said. "No question, it's critical that we win some of these games and the way we're playing now, we will."