Time Is Tight

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

After Monday’s loss to the Sharks at Verizon Center, the Caps had three days to lick their wounds, rest their bones and hone their game. They’re back in action on Friday in South Florida; that will be a key Southeast Division game to say the least. The Caps and Cats won’t see one another until April 5 after Friday’s game. That game on Friday starts a ruggedly busy stretch for the Capitals in which they’ll play six games in nine nights, with five of those games coming on the road. This three-day gap between games is the longest one the Caps will have in the season’s final seven weeks, and these next six games are the last six games between now and the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline. If it feels like a critical juncture in the season, it’s because it is. “You look around and you watch the standings,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “And everyone else seems to be winning. Last night, Tampa Bay wins and Winnipeg wins. We have to put together a stretch of wins, and there is no more important game than tonight.” There are 26 games left. Fourteen of those are on the road. The Caps have won nine of 27 road games this season, and two of their last nine. They haven’t won a road game against a team currently in a playoff position in more than two months, since a Dec. 7 win over the Senators in Ottawa. As Booker T. & The MGs would put it musically, “Time Is Tight.” “We know,” says Laich, “but we addressed it [Thursday] before practice. We had a little close-the-door players [only] meeting and really addressed what we thought we had to do, and our state of the union, where we’re at right now. “I think we’ve got to go 17-9 to get into the playoffs, so we want everybody to be aware that we’ve probably got to have at least 95 points to get in. Obviously we have bigger goals than just getting in; you want to have as good of a position as you can. We had a good talk yesterday and I think everyone is really aware of the situation.” Washington hits the road in the throes of a three-game losing streak (0-2-1), its longest since a four-game drought From Nov. 25-Dec. 1. “I thought we played well [in Sunday’s 3-2 loss] against the Rangers,” says Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman. “I thought we battled hard; we just didn’t come out on top there. And then [Monday] against San Jose, in 5-on-5 play we played well. But our [penalty-killers] didn’t get the job done and our power play was even worse. When it comes down to it at this time of year, that’s the difference in hockey games. Our power play needs to be better and our penalty-kill needs to be better. We’ve done a real good job in 5-on-5, we just need to pick up our special teams.” The Caps haven’t been strong on special teams on the road all season. Their 77.4% penalty-kill rate on the road ranks 26th in the NHL and they’ve managed just 10 power play goals in 27 road games. Washington’s 11.5% road power-play success rate is 28th in the league. “If we don’t start winning on the road here in this next stretch here,” says Wideman, “this road trip, that could really put us in trouble after the deadline. It could put us behind the eight-ball. Teams below us are winning and playing good hockey. We’ve got ourselves a road trip here where we’ve got to start winning some hockey games.” This next stretch of six games – five of them on the road – is potentially a season-defining stretch. “The last couple of years,” says Laich, “we’re really had a good road record, a really exceptional road record. And now we aren’t even within five games of .500 so it has been a big difference this year. That has probably been the main difference in our season this year. Our home record is the same, but our road record in the past couple years has been exceptional and this year it hasn’t. Somehow we’ve got to find a way to win more hockey games on the road. For us to make the playoffs, we’ve got to win on the road.” Washington had two strong practices this week, plus an optional practice on Tuesday prior to today’s morning skate in preparation for tonight’s tilt with the Panthers. “I think practice is a huge thing,” says Laich. “I’ve been around a long time. People that know me know that I think practice what you do and practice will translate to the game. If you work your tail off and do the right things in practice – stop in front of the net, shoot to score, bang in rebounds, crisp passes on the tape, skate – that you are just going to play like that and you’re going to get rewarded for it. When you have practice days, you make the most of them and you leave the rink feeling good. And then that translates into the game.”

next up:

Eight Years After

January 14, 2013

Eight years ago today, the Capitals announced that they had traded left wing Peter Bondra to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a minor league forward named Brooks Laich and a second-round draft choice in 2004. The deal was met with anguish from Capitals fans, and understandably so. Bondra was one

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Mike Vogel on Twitter

  • Mike Vogel @vogscaps

    RT @teddysears: I met @VogsCaps drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic's. His hair was perfect. #Caps

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    Defenseman Tyson Strachan has cleared waivers and will join AHL Hershey Bears for final three games of reg. season, and hopefully playoffs.

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    Hearty congrats also to #Caps goalie coach @OlieKolzig37 for election to Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame. Richly deserved. HOF guy, too.

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    Hearty congrats to Bethesda's Graham McPhee, who has committed to the US-NDTP for 2014-15. He'll be on the U-17 team. Huge honor.

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