Caps forward Brooks Laich said last week on radio station 106.7 – The Fan that falling behind early shouldn’t be a big deal. But Washington has trailed after the first period in nine of its last 21 games, including on Sunday against Ottawa. Only six times during that stretch has it led after one period. Another five times it’s been even. Now, in spite of their offensive struggles, this Caps team should still have enough offensive talent to shake off an early goal by its opponent. Bruce Boudreau, you may recall, produced a memorable turn of phrase during HBO’s 24/7 program to describe a 1-0 deficit to Florida. But it does begin to wear on you when it happens time and again.
“Our first periods have been a point of concern, I guess you could say,” Laich told the Sports Junkies. “When we had the [eight-game] losing streak we were getting down 2-0, 3-0 in the first period, which I don’t know if our guys aren’t paying enough attention early on or if we’re not doing enough to get ready. I’m not sure why it’s happened like that…But we definitely would like to get back to scoring first, playing with the lead and making the other team change their style to try and chase us.”
Sustaining the lead after an early goal would go a long way towards a win tonight in Philadelphia. But it seems like the harder Washington presses for that quick score the more elusive it becomes. It’s not like the coaching staff hasn’t harped on fast starts. It’s not like the players forget how critical their league-leading 92 first-period goals were to their success last season. But execution – no matter how it happens - is the thing. Can they turn the tide this evening in hostile territory? Philly really isn’t that fun a place to be for an opposing team when this building – WellsFargo/ScotiaBank/Wachovia/BankofAmerica/FirstUnion/CoreStates or whatever-they’re-calling-it-now Center – gets cranking. The antidote is obvious - an early goal - and harder than it looks.
“We’ve tried everything. I think right now it’s more of a mindset. It’s like being in a slump,” Boudreau said after today’s morning skate. “You sit there and go, ‘Okay, what bad thing is going to happen in the first five minutes of the game?’ And then when it happens you go ‘Okay, let’s start playing.’ We’ve got to get over it because we haven’t played with a lead in an awful long time it seems.”
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