The Washington Capitals, with the sting of a third period collapse and 5-2 loss to Dallas last night still hurting, were put through more pain at practice earlier today. Coach Bruce Boudreau ran his players through a “bag skate”, where between drills the players did sprints up and down the ice. It’s less conditioning and more punishment than anything else, but one would hope it got the attention of a team that seemed less than focused against a tough opponent.
“I think they worked hard,” Boudreau said of today’s hour and a half practice. “It was a fairly tough practice. I didn’t hear any of them complaining. They just knew they had to put their ‘work boots’ on.”
“It’s not something you do off the cuff,” Boudreau explained. “The initial thought is you’re so mad you want to do something and then you have to sit and say, ‘Okay, you’re mad, let’s do the right things here. What’s best for the group and everybody?’ You talk it over with the assistant coaches and we come to a decision that the initial thought is probably the thought that was going to work in this case. It’s not something that you do every day because if it’s one of those things that if you do it every day, it’s not going to work.”
It’s debatable how much bag skates are actually helpful though, and Boudreau acknowledged that as well.
“I’ve seen it work both ways,” Boudreau explained. “Sometimes, boy, it doesn’t work, but it’s the same way as coaches, they try things; sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I don’t know if it’s right or if it’s wrong, but you can’t stay status quo when you’re not playing well.”
Between the sprints, the team concentrated on individual battle drills for the puck, an area that Boudreau feels his team has been lacking in recent games. ”One of the main facets [of hockey] is winning the one-on-one battles in the course of a team game. The team that wins the most battles is the team that usually gets the most chances to win and I don’t think we’ve won enough battles the last two games to be successful.”
The players acknowledged the practical aspect of today’s practice between all the skating. “I think any bag skate with no pucks is worse than that,” forward Jason Chimera said. “At least we did a lot of functional things out there that we could use in a game. Not just needless skating. We did a lot of skating, but we did a lot of things that we can work on, too.”
Boudreau pointed out that despite being skated ragged, the players still competed hard during the individual drills, which, at the end of the day, was probably the most important message.
“The one thing that it shows no matter how tired you are you can have fun if you’re working hard,” Boudreau said. “They were smiling and laughing and yet they were kicking the crap out of each other. Hard work doesn’t necessarily have to mean punishment. If you want to compete it can be fun.”
Now the Caps just need to carry the “fun” over to the home-and-away with New Jersey this weekend.
CAPS NOTES: Defenseman Mike Green fully participated in today’s grueling practice, still recovering from the sprained ankle that has caused him to miss the team’s last six games. “It’s a real positive,” Boudreau said of Green fully practicing. “He did the battle drills, we tried to keep him out of it initially and he said no, he wanted to do it. Went right in and did it and said he is feeling stronger and stronger so that’s a real positive sign.” Green is still questionable for this weekend’s games against New Jersey.
Injured forward Jay Beagle did not practice, but Boudreau said he was not scheduled to practice today on his every-other-day schedule, recovering from concussion symptoms after his fight with Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham Oct. 13.