Mike Knuble described his team as ‘outclassed’ in the third period after their 5-2 defeat by Dallas Tuesday. Bruce Boudreau, in his post-game press conference, talked about how the team lost a lot of battles in the third—which they entered tied at 2. In fact, the team lost those battles for the pucks throughout the game.
And Boudreau said accountability for those who took penalties when the score was tight would be enacted through limited ice time, observing that Alexander Semin, despite a power play goal in the first, was held to only two shifts after he cost the team two penalties in the game. As Boudreau’s comments suggested, Semin doesn’t move his legs, and chooses the penalty rather than the hard work.
The behavior by Semin really isn’t shocking or anything new—it’s been status quo in Washington for several years for 28. The observation isn’t meant to rekindle any “Semin has to go” conversations. But comparing that style of game Tuesday to that of two of his teammates is a solid illustration of what Boudreau means by winning individual battles. It doesn’t mean playing a perfect game, but it means owning your time on the ice for however long your shifts are.
Look at Matt Hendricks’ play Tuesday. Hendricks had far from a stellar game—in fact, he was out on the ice for a shift that could only be described as the Shift of Shame, when the Capitals literally stood in their own end, made no effort to clear the puck, and watched Dallas score as if the boys in red were sitting in the press box like the journalists.
But that was one shift in the first period. Instead of letting his focus slip in and out the whole game, Hendricks redeemed himself battling for the puck. And, even when there was a 3-goal deficit with only 10 minutes left in the game, he dropped the gloves and got his team to care more in the final moments than they had for much of the game.
“That’s the type of guy Hendy is,” defenseman Dennis Wideman said after the game. “If he can’t give us a boost with scoring a goal or getting ahead, then he gets involved physically or gets involved any way he can. We needed to be playing a lot better than that before that, but it was good to see him get in there.”
Or take Wideman himself. Wideman didn’t have a perfect game, either. He failed to register a point (unusual for him this year), and he took a delay of game penalty in the second. He was also on ice for Dallas’ third goal. But at least he fought for the puck consistently, and often helped change the flow of the game in the Capitals’ favor. He followed up a major clear on a penalty kill in the second by drawing a penalty that negated his team’s disadvantage. He’d bat down an airborne puck and make sure it stayed in Dallas’ defensive zone.
On some days—and sometimes for a longer stretch of time—a player’s shot just won’t work. He’ll go through scoring streaks that could make a volcano melt and droughts that would make the Sahara seem pleasant. That’s why work ethic has to be there—to fill in the gaps.
Going forward, the Capitals are going to have to take more pride in possessing the puck and fighting for it if they don’t want more performances like Tuesday’s.