With a 2-0 lead in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers, Capitals Coach Adam Oates gave his players a day to refresh however they saw fit before an important Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Oates requested every player report to the team’s practice facility Sunday morning but didn’t hold a usual video session and gave each Capital the option whether to skate.
Ultimately only two players who appeared in Washington’s Game 2 victory – Jay Beagle and Jack Hillen – took to the ice along with the scratches, but to Oates giving the Capitals a chance to recuperate is as important as anything even in the postseason.
“I just brought them all in just to come to the arena and make sure we just get hockey on your mind,” Oates said. “The thought really from the staff is that even though it was an afternoon game it’s a stressful environment, you win in overtime you’re excited but still it’s very stressful. So let the guys just breathe a little bit.”
The Capitals are 4-5 all-time in series in which they’ve held a 2-0 lead, with three of those nine occurrences taking place when the Patrick Division semifinals were a best-of-five series.
The last time Washington won the first two games of a playoff series came against the New York Rangers in the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Capitals went on to defeat New York in five games.
But two wins is only half way toward the desired result, Oates knows and there’s a line between confidence and complacency.
“You hope that the messages you’ve been saying all year long guys understand that,” Oates said. “That’s part of what we talked about today, just so you remember that it’s hockey. Don’t get too excited, it was a game. Exciting we won, did a lot of good things but you still gotta do some stuff better. They get to breathe for a day and tomorrow we’re right back at it.”