The Capitals' love of running and gunning under former coach Bruce Boudreau has given way to a more disciplined style under Dale Hunter, one that's clearly worked, as they got by the defending champion Bruins in seven tight, hard-fought games.
After Saturday's 3-1 Game 1 loss to the Rangers, thoughts might have been creeping into some Caps' heads about the need to open things up and try to create more offense entering Game 2 Monday night. That would be the wrong instinct, a few of them said Monday.
"This team has had success because we stayed patient and played the same way whether we were winning or losing," Troy Brouwer said after the Capitals' skate before Game 2. "I think we got down a little [in Game 1] and guys tried to do a little too much."
Alex Ovechkin might have been the main culprit in the opener. He played 21:03, tops among Washington forwards, but put only one shot on goal and took an offensive-zone penalty.
Ovechkin said after Game 1 that he had more room to operate Saturday against the Rangers than he did in seven games against the Bruins, but Brouwer said his linemate needs to do the little things that the rest of the Caps are doing to generate offense.
"I think for him, he can't be so impatient to get through the neutral zone," Brouwer said. "He's got to circle back. We know they play tight through the neutral zone and they like to apply lots of pressure."
Said Ovechkin: "We just have to play better, that's all. We know how they play. It's all about us, of course."
Hunter feels the same way, so he delivered a small message to Alexander Semin, one of the Caps' enigmatic talents. Hunter had Semin practice Sunday and skate Monday morning on the fourth line, moving him off the line with Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom that had some success against the Bruins.
"Oh, just switching the lines around," Hunter said coyly Monday.
Semin was another Capital who didn't exactly perform to Hunter's standards Saturday. The Caps got only 18 shots through to Henrik Lundqvist, but they permitted the Rangers only 14, so it wasn't as if Washington needed a full overhaul heading into Game 2. Just more determination.
"There's no need to run-and-gun," said defenseman Mike Green, one of the bigger proponents of that style in the Boudreau era. "We have our system we play and we need to abide by it. You don't see too many pretty goals off the rush this time of year; it's rebounds and deflections, and that's how we have to keep playing."