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At the Rink blog

Caps happy with success in tight games

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 2:20 PM

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Caps happy with success in tight games
One of the more interesting aspects of the Capitals' perfect start to the season is that of their five wins to open the season, four of them have been one-goal affairs, including two that were decided in overtime and another in a shootout.

"We're delighted we've won five games," Capitals General Manager George McPhee told NHL.com. "We could probably play better but you take the points where you can get them. What we might be the most happy with is how we're comfortable playing with one-goal leads. Not sure that was the case a few years ago. That's been a good sign."

Caps captain Alex Ovechkin agreed with his GM.

"It just shows character," he said. "I think sometimes a couple years ago, even a year ago, when we'd get the lead we'd start to get a little nervous about our leading and what we're going to do. Right now we play with confidence."

Part of that is credited to the new additions this season -- forwards Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Jeff Halpern, defenseman Roman Hamrlik and goalie Tomas Vokoun.

McPhee said he isn't sure how much help the new players have given, but he's sure it's helped.

"Sometimes there's a process for players to learn how to play in the right positions and learn how to check and be better defensively and know how to manage things that way," said McPhee. "When you bring some guys that can play that way, by watching it the light comes on and they understand better.

"It's so early (so) I don't know what kind of influence they've had, but we sure like having them here."

Caps forward Mike Knuble said the biggest thing he's seen from the new players has been an increase in the depth of talent, which has led to more players getting bigger bites of ice time in important situations.

"The biggest thing where they've helped is the depth," he said. "I think if you watch our ice times and the players, you can see that Bruce (Boudreau, coach) is really spreading out key moments, giving different key moments in a game to different players. Where he had to really load up guys and use 2-3 guys, now he's got four, five, six guys he can use in situations. As a player you've got to be ready. Might not be you every night … so now you have to be ready, sometimes he goes with you, sometimes he goes with someone else."

He might be playing fewer minutes now, but the 39-year-old knows less time now means more energy later in the season.

"You're not taxing your top players," he said. "You're not taxing your first centers, your first wingers, 22 minutes a game in October. They're bringing that back and he's rolling lines more. … I think it's a good thing for our team, because it cuts down wear and tear on guys first and foremost."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

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