Capitals hit halfway mark with glass half full

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“You can teach a guy to get in the shooting lane and suck it up. You can’t flamingo it; you’ve got to block that shot. But when the puck comes around the boards and the D is pinching in, it’s not that easy to get it our without icing it or exposing it to the middle. That’s what we’ve got to understand, where to put the puck.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Since the arrival of Ovechkin, the Caps hae always been able to score goals. It’s keeping them out of their own net that has kept their coaches up at night.

Oates says unnecessary icings are one bad habit he’s trying to correct.

“There are three or four icings a game that shouldn’t happen,” he said. “That affects matchups, it affects fatigue, it affects rhythm. The other team gets to put their fresh troops out, and they hem you in and before you know it you take a penalty and they score because a few minutes ago you iced the puck stupidly.”

Brooks Laich, who has been elevated from fourth-line left wing to third-line center, said that if the Caps can play better defensively they’ll climb their way up the standings and be a tougher team to face in the playoffs.

“I think in the second half our defense will allow us to go on a long winning streak,” Laich said. “We haven’t put an eight-game or nine-game streak together and defense does that. When we get air-tight in our zone and we can automatically get out in 5, 6, 7 seconds, then we’ll put together a winning streak.”

Troy Brouwer said he believes the Caps are closer to becoming a more predictable team, but there is work to be done.

“I think our consistency is something that definitely needs to be worked on,” he said. “Make sure we’re playing the same game every night and not being a different team depending on who we’re playing against.”

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