One of the challenges of coaching the Capitals is trying to get players with world-class talent to roll up their sleeves and grind it out.
It's kind of like giving Picasso a box of crayons.
"I'm sure if you're a skilled player and you've been doing it a lot your whole life you always feel you can make that play," Bruce Boudreau said after watching the Capitals make one giveaway after another en route to a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers Friday at the Verizon Center.
"It's like a quarterback who always thinks he can make that pass no matter how much traffic there is. A good golfer thinks he can make that shot no matter how much room he has. Hockey players are no different. But we've got to get it through them that the risk isn't worth the reward. It's not worth it. You live to fight another day. You get it deep, you win the battle and eventually something good will happen."
Aside from Alex Ovechkin finally scoring his first goal on home ice, very little good happened to the Capitals on Black Friday, mostly because they stretched themselves out offensively and allowed too many wide open chances on goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who surrendered six goals on 33 shots.
The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for the Capitals, who fell to 12-8-1 overall and 8-2-1 at home.
It was a particularly tough night for veteran defensemen Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik, each of whom finished the game a minus-3 and were given just two shifts in the final period. In fact, Boudreau used center Brooks Laich on defense in the final period.
A message, perhaps?
"I didn't want to kill them," Boudreau said of Wideman and Hamrlik. "I thought I would give them a rest and maybe add a little offsense. But unfortunately that backfired."
The Capitals committed 17 turnovers to the Rangers' six and in a nutshell, that was the hockey game.
After a scoreless first period dominated by the goaltending of Neuvirth and Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers outshot the Caps 15-9 in the middle period to build a 4-2 lead on goals by Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brian Boyle.
The killer goal was Boyles, which came with 3:11 remaining in the period after the Caps had drawn within 3-2 on goals by Brouwer and Carlson.
The Caps lost a battle along the boards and after Neuvirth flubbed a wrist shot by John Mitchell, Boyle scored to restore the Rangers two-goal cushion.
"Like a few of our players, there's a lack of confidence in his game right now," Boudreau said of Neuvirth, who is now 2-4-1 with a 3.82 GAA and .868 save percentage. "We've just got to get him a little mentally stronger."
Defenseman Karl Alzner said that could go for thre entire team.
"We're getting too down," Alzner said. "As soon as we get a goal scored against us it kind of feels like it's the end of the world. It's just one goal."
The Capitals opened things up in the third period and a Wideman giveaway turned into an odd-man rush the other way that resulted in Brad Richards seventh goal of the season.Wideman committed five of the Capitals' 17 turnovers.
"He made a good rush up the ice, but when he got to the blue line he should have dumped it in and then he could have kept going," Boudreau said of Wideman. "But he tried to make that extra deke and toe drag and he gets stripped. Guys are too good. Very rarely do you see end-to-end rushes anymore in this game, where guys are deking out three guys like Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr did. That doesn't happen anymore."
Marcus Johansson, who was guilty of a turnover that directly led New York's third goal, also finished the night a minus-3 with two turnovers.
The Caps will try to reverse their fortunes Saturday night in Buffalo when Tomas Vokoun returns to action. Alzner said the Caps need to make some mental and physical adjustments if they hope to rebound from Friday's poor performance and put together a long stretch of wins.
"We were too slow. We were too soft," Alzner said. "You could all see we were cheating a bit. We weren't stopping and starting and working hard for each other and you don't want to see that. That's one thing we need to start hammering in our head. That it's a heck of a lot more fun when you're working hard and winning. It might be a little more tiring, but in the end you don't have all that down time on the plane or when you go home."