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1-19-10 Behind the Bench

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
There are many ways to keep track of how a team is doing, but we prefer to do so by focusing on the current week. Some coaches divide the season into segments of 10 games, but I think that is too many and can seem too daunting sometimes. That is why we focus on a week at a time.

This is one of the rare coaching philosophies that I did not learn from anybody else and it is actually not something that I have always used. I started using it a few years ago and found it to be successful, so I have stuck with it. A good example of this is two years ago when we needed to win 12 of 13 games to get into the playoffs. We were faced with a difficult road schedule over those final 13 games as well, but we never talked to the team about how many games we needed to win. Instead, we talked about winning the week. We talked about winning two games here and three games there and all of a sudden it becomes possible. It certainly worked that year, as we made the playoffs.
Our week goes Monday to Sunday and we always want to be above .500 for the week. This year, I think there have been only one or two times where we have not met that goal. Of course, if you win the first two or three games of the week then you want to sweep the week, but we always talk one game at a time.
This week is a rare week where we only play three games, but these games are against exceptional opponents. We play a Detroit team tonight that has been to the Finals the past two years and is starting to get healthy. In recent years, they also have not had to play with the sense of urgency that they are playing with right now. Previously, they would have a 10- to 15-point advantage in the division, but they are currently out of the playoffs and are playing as hard as they have ever played. Tonight will be a real test for us against a very good team that has already beat us this year.
Even though we focus on weeks, we have not even mentioned the Pittsburgh game to the team. We never mention our next game until the current game is over and done with. Tomorrow, we will start talking about Pittsburgh. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions and we are excited to play them. You always want to measure yourself against the best. I am sure there is going to be a lot of media hype around this game for a number of reasons. There is a close proximity between the two teams in the standings, Alex and Sidney both have 30 goals and they beat us in Game 7 of the playoffs last year.
We finish our week against Phoenix, who many consider to be the surprise team of the season so far. They have 61 points and are in fifth place in the Western Conference. They also beat us last season, so we have to be well prepared after two emotional games to play them and hopefully end our week on a good note.
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