Capitals' playoff scouting report

How rival players, coaches view Washington's postseason outlook

Originally Published: April 8, 2012
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
Washington CapitalsRob Carr/Getty ImagesThe Washington Capitals need Alex Ovechkin to play well to advance.

This is a Washington Capitals team unlike any we've seen over the past few years.

This isn't the team that tried to tilt the ice and outscore everyone it played. "We called them the Globetrotters," joked one Eastern Conference forward.

It's not last season's team that tried to make a midseason metamorphosis into a defensively responsible group. It's a team that has slowly taken on the identity of its first-year head coach, Dale Hunter, although at times the Capitals have struggled to consistently pull it off.

"Our game has changed," forward Brooks Laich said. "We're going to chip and chase the pucks. We're going to keep pucks against the wall. It's not as much for the highlight reel but maybe stuff in the long run is more effective."

And perhaps the most important thing about this team? The Capitals don't mind playing in close games. Years of winning regular-season games 6-3 resulted in playoff performances in which the team never quite looked right in one-goal games.

Laich says they've evolved into a team where that isn't a problem.

"Our team is comfortable in the tight games," Laich said. "Our defensive game -- we're not giving up as much. We're going to try and grind you down, work you down. It's a different year but each team takes on a different identity."


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