That the Washington Capitals used a majority of what will be their NHL lineup Wednesday night against the Nashville Predators is what made this particular preseason loss even more frustrating for Coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Predators, who fielded much of their regular squad as well, captured a 4-1 win over the Capitals, who were plagued by sloppy defensive zone coverage and the quest for the perfect play offensively. Those are flaws that need to be corrected quickly, what with only two exhibition games remaining and 10 days before the regular season opener.
Asked what he found more disappointing – the stagnant offense or repeated defensive breakdowns – Boudreau declined to choose and said both were “upsetting.”
“I hope it’s not rust. These guys have been practicing hard every day now since camp began or played games — our guys are playing games,” Boudreau said. “It’s time we started to get our act in gear and start playing better.”
Nashville’s first goal was the result of a disjointed play where John Carlson went to the opposite side of the ice to try to swat the puck away from the Predators’ David Legwand but missed as Karl Alzner tried to get back in the play. The puck found an open Colin Wilson who beat Vokoun as both defensemen tried to react in time.
On the Predators’ second and third tallies the Capitals failed to pick up opponents once again, this time with Jeff Schultz and Mike Green as the defensemen on the ice. Matt Halischuck was left alone in the slot for the second and for the third, Shea Weber managed to elude all five Capitals on the ice as he snuck back door from the point.
“There’s some good teaching material in there,” a visibly irritated Boudreau said. “They’re getting the goals from right in front of the net. It’s losing your man and not having your head on a swivel and leaving the zone too early, there’s a combination [of things going wrong] and it wasn’t the kids that were out there when all these goals were scored either.”
Green, who led the Capitals with 24:09 of ice time but was a minus-2, said that for both Predators goals he and Schultz wound up on opposite sides of the ice.
“The mistakes that we made, they capitalized on [them],” Green said. “We took pride last year in protecting things in the defensive zone and that obviously still needs to be some work. You’ve got to give them some credit: they came out hard and they made it very difficult for us.”
Offensively, the Capitals grew stale both at even strength and with the man advantage. They mustered only four shots in the second period and fell into the same bad habits of looking for a perfect play rather than outworking opponents to create a play, the same was true on the power play.
“When we get into that position where we’re trying to be too cute it never happens,” Boudreau said. “When you’re looking for the perfect shot; maybe guys that are used to scoring that haven’t scored in preseason are looking for the perfect play but that’s not the way you get goals. You get goals by going to the net and shooting pucks and eventually one goes in off your head or your knee or something. Where did they get all of their goals from? In the blue. Every one of them in the blue — from going to the net.”