Boudreau still cracking the whip

Boudreau still cracking the whip
October 25, 2011, 8:59 pm
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The Capitals are the only team in the NHL with a perfect 7-0-0 record.

Theyve scored more goals per game (4.14) than anyone in the league and are proud owners of the leagues top-ranked power play.

So why has Bruce Boudreau turned into the Little Dictator, pushing his players through enough post-practice skating drills to have them hunched over gasping for air?

Why, just when his players thought they had finished Tuesdays stops and starts, did Boudreau pull out his whistle and bark, Youve got three more! Lets keep working!

Because in the opinion of Boudreau, complacency is a four-letter word he never wants labeled on his team. And if you ask them, thats just fine with his players.

You have to stay humble when you win, center Brooks Laich said. We have to remember than when we win the other team is going home and practicing harder. We cant come to the rink and take days off because we won.

How hard have the Capitals been practicing this season? Two weeks ago Matt Hendricks needed stitches in his eyebrow when he was slammed into the glass in a battle drill with a teammate. On Monday it was Alex Ovechkin who took a tumble in front of the net, requiring stitches above his eye.

Theyre getting cut and bumped and hurt, Boudreau said. I think its a testament to how hard they practice. Theyre pushing themselves because they want to be better. Who knows? If they let up somebody might be playing better than them and play ahead of them.

Unlike previous years, when one lines dominance or a red-hot goalie could carry the Capitals for weeks at a time, this years team is far more balanced and getting contributions from just about everyone on the roster.

Through seven games, eight different players have five or more points and every player on the roster is even or plus on the plus-minus ledger. More telling is the fact that except for D.J. King, every player on the Caps roster has averaged more than 10 minutes of ice time a game.

Ovechkin, who is averaging a career-low 18:45 per game, said hes fine with his reduced ice time, at least for now.

Its a good sign for our team, Ovechkin said. Its nice. I want to play lots of minutes but right now I dont need to. Thats why we play all four lines like we do.

So far, its working to the tune of the NHLs only perfect record. But if Laich has anything to say about it, the Caps will not get caught up in reading their own press clippings. In fact, he noticed a real business-like approach to the Capitals win in Philadelphia last week that improved their record to 6-0-0.

A lot of people on a lot of teams would really be excited about winning six games in a row, Laich said. We went into Philly, we won and came home. There was no popping champagne or over-joyous celebrating. Its nice to see that winning is starting to become habit and the bar is getting so high that you expect to hit it every time.