November 09, 2011
Battle drills. Suicide skates. Players hunched over, sucking wind. The Washington Capitals earned their bag skate today, according to Coach Bruce Boudreau.
"It's not something you do off the cuff. The initial thought is that you're so mad, you want to do something. But then you have to sit and say, 'OK, you're mad, but let's do the right thing,'" he said after the epic practice.
"As far as the skating at the end … if we're not going to work as hard as we anticipate or as hard as we should have the night before, we'll work a little harder today."
Lack of effort is a mortal sin in Boudreau's eyes. Last season, during that 8-game losing streak chronicled by HBO, the Capitals had the effort but little to show for it. In the last two games, he said, Washington didn't show up for the third period.
The Capitals lost to the Dallas Stars, 5-2, on Tuesday night. That follows a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. In total, the Capitals were outscored 6-1 in the third period in those two games, and have given up more goals in the final frame (16) than in the other two periods of play.
So Boudreau bagged'em, know there could be drawbacks. "I've seen it work both ways. Sometimes … boy, it doesn't work. But coaches try things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. But you can't stay status quo," he said.
Besides Boudreau's response, the other intrigue after the team's first loss on home ice was how Mike Knuble(notes) would edit himself after saying he and his teammates looked like "losers" and "clowns" against Dallas. Via Steve Whyno of the Washington Times, Kunble after the bag skate:
"Yeah. I mean I probably could've used a little more tact or whatever. I'm not a fan of talking about my team to everybody else before I talk amongst yourselves. I probably could've used some better words, maybe. I don't know. But the fact is we're not playing well, and that was pretty evident in our practice.
"At times you'd rather just deal with it in your room. But it just kind of came out — whatever. I guess you live with what happened. I like to use a little more tact, if anything. It comes out funny sometimes. I think the message is we need to play better. And when we don't, we don't know what we're doing. You always want to represent yourself and play well every night you can, and it's frustrating when you don't. Probably I voiced that. Not just one night — for a little bit."
The fact is that Dallas skated them out of their own building last night, and that the Capitals' commitment to the kind of team defense Boudreau believes can win in the playoffs (a) wavered recently and (b) was MIA in the semifinals last season. It's one of the primary knocks on these underachievers; how many suicide skates will it take to fix that?