Friday, May 4, 2012
Now that's a day off
By Scott Burnside
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Bison burgers, walks, babies, grass seed, dogs and license renewals were all part of the recuperative menu for the Washington Capitals as they tried to put the crushing disappointment of a triple-overtime loss Wednesday night behind them.
The Capitals and the New York Rangers went almost six full periods in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal before Brad Richards found Marian Gaborik in front of the Capitals net and Gaborik ended the contest at 14:41 of the third overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead heading into a Game 4 matinee in Washington on Saturday.
For the Rangers, their road to recovery will mean fewer mental acrobatics than the path traveled by the Capitals.
The Rangers remained in Washington after Game 3 and on Thursday engaged in a variety of activities, including a visit for some to Arlington National Cemetery before resuming practice Friday.
The Capitals also had Thursday off but being at home followed a many and varied path to restoring themselves mentally and physically for Saturday’s crucial tilt.
"I think eating a lot and drinking a lot, getting a lot of fluids in you and obviously rest. I took probably two or three naps yesterday, just half-hour naps throughout the day," explained Caps center Jay Beagle, who played 35:04 in Game 3, almost twice what he would play in a normal game. "I was constantly eating when I was awake, just trying to get my weight back up because I lost probably 10 pounds after the game; I was down a lot of weight. Just trying to get my weight back up and the fluids back in me. Today will be the same, eating all day and drinking."
Beagle's instant weight-on diet included lots of nuts, fruits and granola.
"Ate a lot of beef jerky and steak and bison burger. I went over to Karl's for some bison burgers, a lot of good fats, avocados, nuts. Even made a couple of nasty shots of olive oil and avocado oil, stuff like that," Beagle said, referring to teammate Karl Alzner, who was in charge of grilling for some teammates.
Roman Hamrlik, who had 38:43 of ice time in Game 3, admitted he wasn't feeling great Thursday morning.
"We played almost two games in one night. You see how everybody was tired when the game was going on and on," he said. "Yesterday was a little bit tough day for me, but I just tried to spend time; I just watch TV. I watched the hockey game last night, had a good sleep, so I feel good today."
Hamrlik's defense partner, Mike Green, was also out and about Thursday, trying to separate himself from the disappointment of the Game 3 loss.
"I went for a walk down to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Do you know where that is? Just down by the water," he said. "Did that, walked up, had a salad, went home, rested had a nap, a good two-hour nap, and then the girlfriend cooked dinner and I rested most of the night."
Like many of his teammates, Green was trying to enjoy time away from the game, even though he did check in on Thursday’s games at the end.
"I think you've got to step away too. That’s why I went for a walk, just try and get my legs going and my mind away from it," he said.
It might not have been relaxing, but at least it was a fruitful day for Joel Ward, who finally got his driver's license renewed.
"I spent the day at the DMV," said Ward, who scored the Game 7 overtime winner that propelled the Capitals past the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and into the second round. "I had to get new license plates. It had to get done. If I got pulled over one more time for my expired plates, I was in trouble. That actually takes a load off the shoulders, to be honest."
Matt Hendricks helped create the best scoring chance for the Capitals in overtime of Game 3 when he knocked Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh off the puck deep in the Rangers zone and fed linemate Troy Brouwer in front of the net early in the first overtime period. But Brouwer couldn't convert.
On Thursday, Hendricks went to the practice facility for a dunk in the cold tub and then home for some well-earned domestic chores, which included putting down some grass seed and fertilizer on his lawn.
"Set the sprinkler system up; just tried to get a little vitamin D," Hendricks said.
The father of 6-month-old twins, Hendricks enjoyed the sun and the chance to play Dad.
"I sat right in the lawn chair and kind of held the babies and played with them and realized life's good," he said.
The Capitals have not lost back-to-back games in regulation since the middle of March, and the consensus is that this is a much tougher team mentally than earlier versions that have fallen short of expectations in the playoffs. Against Boston in the first round, they trailed 1-0 and 2-1, as is the case in this series against the Rangers, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
"I think we are mentally tougher," Hendricks said. "We've talked a lot about the adversity we've gone through throughout the course of the season. I think that's benefited us. I think when things are getting tough on us as a group, we stick to our systems well. We don't deviate away from them the way we used to, where we'd get down a goal or two or we'd get individual; we’d try to do things on our own. Now I think we're relying on our system, on our teammates, and it's benefiting us."
On Saturday afternoon, we’ll find out whether all those rest-and-recovery strategies did the trick.