Capitals Discuss Makings of Good Starts

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With regularity, hockey players and coaches will praise a 60-minute effort or lament the lack of one depending on the outcome of a given game, usually to a hackneyed degree.

Those same players and coaches will also often stress the importance of the first few minutes and "getting off to good starts." So inside the Washington Capitals' locker room, what constitutes a good start? 

"Good pressure, good momentum, being able to get everybody into the game early, everybody feeling the pace of the game and more so than anything else, dictating the play early on in the game," forward Troy Brouwer said. "Whenever you're back on your heels to start the game, the other team is determining the way that you're playing and you just want to be able to get out there, get a good feeling, get some momentum and have them be on their heels and be worried about what we're doing."

Andrew Thomas of provided raw shot-attempt data at even strength carved into six 10-minute increments. According to said data (when score effects are minimal), the Capitals have recorded 49.2 percent of the total shot attempts -- shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots -- in the first 10 minutes this season, 20th in the NHL as of Sunday.

Washington is among the league's highest-scoring teams in the first period with 19 goals. Yet of the 14 that they have allowed in the opening period, nine have been scored within the game's first 10 minutes; it should be noted that three of the nine were scored in one game: a 6-5 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 14. 

"I think we went through a little bit of a patch early where we weren't getting off to good starts; we were coming from behind and having pushes," coach Barry Trotz said. "And then I thought our starts were pretty good.

"I think a good start is when you're managing the puck, you're playing in the other team's end, you're pushing forward, you're taking shots. You're not turning puck overs, you're not playing slow, those type of things."

Trotz highlighted Washington's 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 15 as a "good example of a bad start." The Capitals were outshot 13-7 in the first period with a 22-12 shot-attempt disadvantage

"We were standing around," Trotz said. "We were trying to play a slow, puck-management game against a team that's not going to allow you to do that." 

Conversely, Trotz was pleased with how Capitals started their most recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, controlling what he believed was 70 percent of the shot attempts. Washington, however, lost by a 2-1 score. 

"We've had what I think are pretty good starts, but we haven't come out on the positive end of those," Trotz said. "You could be playing poorly and score three easy goals and feel like you had a good first period and you really didn't. You put everything into perspective." 

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