Edinburgh Capitals captain Jacob Johnston says the team cannot afford to keep gifting opponents opening goals.
Caps, despite winning five of their past seven games, have trailed going in to, or at some point during, the third period in all of them, and Johnston believes better pre-game preparation is key to a strong start if Edinburgh are to turn this trend around.
In a busy weekend of Elite League action Edinburgh Capitals travel to Manchester Storm tomorrow and then host Coventry Blaze at Murrayfield on Sunday, looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in last week’s 5-2 home loss to Braehead Clan.
Against Braehead last Sunday, Capitals trailed 5-0 after 40 minutes. Much of the damage was done in a sloppy five minutes in the first period, conceding three goals.
Johnston said: “What happened has kind of been our tendency all year, we haven’t been very strong the first couple of periods and it was the same last time against Braehead.
“We’re not going to dig ourselves out of these holes every time, we’ve done it a few times and they’ve been exciting games, but we’re not going to be able to play hockey like that all year and get away with it.
“It’s been addressed in the locker room. Obviously it’s not going to be the last time we have a deficit in the first period, but we’re hoping that Braehead was the last straw, we’re wanting guys to be more focused and prepared so that we’re ready to play at the drop of the puck rather than turning it on in the second or third period.
“The Elite League is good and there’s not going to be any easy wins out there and we’ve definitely not made it easy on ourselves by not coming out strong in the first period. We’re hopeful in the future we don’t have to leave it till the last ten minutes and fight till the very end to get the win. We’re looking to try and come out stronger and play with a lead for once. But, every win we get is going to be hard fought for sure.”
Canadian defenceman Johnston, now in his second year at Murrayfield, endured a horror first season at Edinburgh. Despite an encouraging start to the campaign, which saw them as high as third in the table of ten last November, they finished bottom of the pile as injuries and player departures took their toll.
Johnston, as well as Garrett Milan, who joined mid-season, are the only two imports to return from last year’s ill-fated roster. However, Johnston believes a more balanced team this time around should help Edinburgh who have already qualified for the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
“Last year our team identity was that we had a lot of offensive power that we relied on, and we kind of played a free-wheeling game and weren’t as accountable or as structured on defence. This year I feel we have more versatility with the players we have, we have some guys that are threats but some who are more defensive specialists, so I think we have more of a well-rounded team.”
It’s early days, tomorrow’s Manchester tilt, where Johnston warns his team-mates to be wary of the small Altrincham ice pad, is only Edinburgh’s third league game of the season, but the “defensive accountability” he speaks of is evident, especially away from Murrayfield, where Edinburgh have picked up wins over Braehead, and Fife Flyers, as well as losing narrowly to Dundee Stars and Belfast Giants.
Sunday’s home match with Coventry (face-off 6pm), is Edinburgh’s first cross-conference game of the season and it will be interesting to see how Caps measure up against the bigger budgets of the Erhardt Conference sides. Johnston believes, however, that Edinburgh have nothing to fear.
“There is no doubt there are some big clubs and some great hockey in that Conference, but I don’t think it’s a huge difference. Last season when these teams came to Murrayfield we had some success against them and we’re confident that on any given night any team in this league can win – and that’s the mind-set we have.”