Saturday morning, long before the Capitals clinched their fourth straight victory with a 2-1 win over the lowly Ottawa Senators, Coach Bruce Boudreau said he didn’t mind if his team won ugly. Not in October, anyway.
“I’m not going to be fussy and sitting here now [saying] we have to be pretty to win,” Boudreau said after the morning skate. “Let’s go out and if we get the opportunity to win against good teams, let’s win. Sometimes we have a tendency as a group, whether it’s fans or teams, we don’t win good enough. We have to be satisfied with getting the win and getting better as the process of the season goes along.”
That all applied after Washington put forth a lethargic second period after a strong opening frame but managed to withstand a push from the Senators, who gave the Capitals much more of a nailbiter than they might have bargained for.
After the game, which featured another prominent performance by Tomas Vokoun (33 saves), Boudreau reiterated that sentiment.
“Not every game, you’re not going to be beautiful, the other team wants to win, too,” Boudreau said. “We’re not satisfied but we’re happy with some of the things, that people are getting better day in and day out.”
The players, meanwhile, were harsher on themselves, talking about how they could improve everywhere but most importantly in their defensive and neutral-zone coverage and positioning. Roman Hamrlik, who set a record for NHL games by a Czech-born player Saturday with his 1,315th career game, said the defensive miscues were particularly apparent this week, beginning in Pittsburgh.
“It started a little bit in Pittsburgh,” Hamrlik said. “It was big challenge for us, big game, you could see Pittsburgh how they played really disciplined hockey. They didn’t do too many turnovers in the neutral zone and played strong 60 minutes. We have guys on the team [that] we can play same as Pittsburgh’s style, be a little disciplined and do the stuff what the coaches tell us to do and we gonna be fine.”
Fellow veteran Mike Knuble added some perspective as well. That imperfection and the team not playing at its peak is acceptable – but only this early in the year.
“It’s October,” Knuble said. “That’s not going to float, you’re not going to want to see that in February, March, April. In October it’s fine. You work on it and we’ll be better Tuesday.”
●I saw Michal Neuvirth walking in Verizon Center after the game and he was limping quite a bit, wasn’t putting much weight on his right foot at all.
Neuvirth, who was not made available to reporters after he worked out for more than an hour with goaltending coach Dave Prior, has missed two straight games with what the team has called a lower-body injury.