Monday, April 30, 2012

Minor Adjustments

The Washington Capitals would be the first to admit that speed did them in during game 1. Their defense seemed overwhelmed by the Rangers ability to follow in chipped pucks and get their forecheck well established. It led to the game's first and third goals for the Rangers and put the Caps into a one game hole in the series.

What Dale Hunter has been trying to instill in his boys is a sense of quickness to get pucks out of the defensive zone. Knowing what to do with the puck and quickly establish the break out and turn away picks from the defensive zone is what the Caps' coaching staff has been working on from day one. The Caps got away from that a little bit in game one. They allowed the Rangers' forwards to create havoc by gaining the zone with speed, getting to the puck and getting the play to the front of the net.

The Capitals worked on taking the boards away in their own zone against the Rangers, but risked the open space it created. It would serve the Caps better to let the Ranger outside shots go and concentrate on the front of the net, clearing pucks and bodies from in front of their goaltender.

Braden Holtby might have answered the question; is he human? Well he was in game 1. But if the defense makes the right adjustments, Holtby should be able to backstop the outside shots. While the young goaltender seemed hard on himself, he did play poorly in his 8th career playoff game. But the young netminder has and can be a lot sharper. Give him the lead, and things go more smoothly for the Caps in general.

As far as offense is concerned, the Caps seemed to have fallen into old habits of shooting too quickly. Especially on the Rangers who are the only NHL team to refine the practice of blocking shots. Caps players talked about quality, not quantity of the shots coming in on Henrik Lundqvist after game 1's loss. They have to get the shots through and create the havoc in front of Lundqvist at the same time.

One way of doing that is more to be more patient with the shot. If the point man can draw the Ranger defender into going down, you could create the odd man opportunity needed to get quality shots on net. Another way to get shots in is to create traffic further away from the crease. Tips from above the circle and in the high slot can create more chances to get the puck through. Also the better chance of giving the initial shot blocker something else to worry about behind him.

The Capitals' power play has to start showing up. Given four opportunities in game one where the Caps could have tied it and taken the lead, they failed to do so. Those chances become more and more rare as the game carries on. They must find was to use the Rangers over aggressive penalty kill to their advantage by maintaining zone presence and patience to wear down those penalty killers on the ice.

The adjustments are minor, but could sway the momentum back on the Caps side in this series.

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