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Behind the Bench: 9-28-09

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
Training camp and preseason games are now over, and I think everyone is ready for the regular season to start. We wanted to get through camp and preseason without any injuries and we did that for the most part. Out philosophy is much like the one in the NFL, where they don’t play all their players all the time in the preseason because they do not want to get anybody hurt. That is why a lot of the starters don’t play right off the bat. We are the same way. So when the horn rang yesterday I was very happy that we did not have any new injuries and that we were able to hang on and win. I did not like that we had to hang on though, because when you get a team down you like to finish them off.

There are two ways I can look at this training camp. One is the glass is half full and the other is that it is half empty. In the half-full glass, we worked very hard, are in great shape and were in position to win all six of our preseason games while using varied lineups the entire time. In the half-empty glass, most of the games were relatively close and we could have lost five of them, but the important thing is that you learn how to win. We had two overtime wins and a few one-goal games in regulation as well. We showed that when the chips are down we can come through.

We have trimmed our roster down to the low 20s and now we will try to build as a team. Everything counts now. Games count for teams and all these stats go toward the next contract for the players. Preseason stats don’t do that. Coaches and players both flip a switch now and I think everybody gets even more excited. Now there is going to be a different buzz in every building we go to. It is not going to be the same as we saw in the preseason.

I am sure they are going to be raising some banners on Thursday in Boston and we have to be ready for that. Those ceremonies always get the home team excited and I can guarantee you that there will be goose bumps for the Bruins when that banner goes up. They are going to come out really hard in the first period, and it is going to be real important for us to be in it right from the beginning.

I remember the last time there was a long ceremony before one of our games. It was in Chicago and they came out and scored four goals against us in the first period. Hopefully that experience will make us better prepared to play on Thursday.

Just because camp is over does not mean that we do not have difficult to decisions to make in the coming days. The most difficult decision we have to make is what lines do we play and who our starting goaltender on Thursday is. I think early on in the year that both goaltenders will play a significant amount. There is no such thing as a No. 1 or a No. 2 goalie. When push comes to shove, probably around game 50, we will know who we will go with. I don’t have to make that decision, because the goalies will make those decisions for us with regard to who is better.

For Thursday, it is all perception as to who the starting goaltender is. It is an NBA perception because they put their starting five out there and they are the starters. In hockey you do more matchups at the beginning of the game. If we start Ovechkin’s line on Thursday, the Bruins may put their third line out there, but that does not carry the perception that the third line is “their starters.”

We may start one goalie on opening night in Boston and the other might start Saturday at home. I have to figure out what to do and which is the better fit for each game if we decide to go that route.
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