Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Different Look

Alex Ovechkin scored his first hat trick since he did it in 2011 against Toronto. It all began from a different look.

What do we know about Ovechkin? Well, he loves to rip down the wing. Bear down on the defenseman, make a move or draw a shot and drive to the net. For the first 2 or 3 years of his career that was good enough for the Capitals. But when teams finally caught hold of what the left winger was doing, they collapse defensively around him and soon he became a non-factor.

One of the reasons Ovechkin was being so well defended was he often came in alone. The opposition defense would simply have to "box" him in with a defender in front of him and a forward coming back to keep him to the wall and force him to cough the puck up, take a low percentage shot, or make a hell of a move to free himself. How many times have we seen the Caps forward fly down the wing only to get snuffed out of the play by three defenders on top of him? Too many times to count.

Ovi was often too fast for his own team. When the Capitals broke out of their own zone and passed it to Ovechkin, the opposition had no troubles containing him in the "box" and stifling the offensive explosiveness Ovechkin had. Often Ovi would try different things like stop and find the trailer, or keep moving down the boards, but often that was met with the defense clamping down on him and he would often lose the puck or no one would be there to help.

Adam Oates knows Ovechkin needs the help. He put the fastest guy on the ice on his line. Jason Chimera adds an element of a pass option for Ovechkin. Added with the crafty play making ability of Mike Ribeiro and this line is quickly becoming a feared line to play against.

But what happened on Saturday afternoon was something we have rarely seen (if ever). And I will break down what transpired.

Here is the break out. Ovechkin has the puck and the Devils work to "box" him in. Normally Ovi would streak down the wing side and right into the trap the opposition lays for him. But as the three Devils look to isolate him he does something unexpected.

Ovi drop passes the puck in the neutral zone to Jason Chimera. The "box" converges now on Chimera the puck carrier as Ovechkin slides to the left side. This is key because Ovechkin is giving the Devils a different look than in the past. He is not carrying the puck into the zone, but relying on his linemates to help him out so he can break out of the defensive scheme.

Chimera's speed draws in two defenders and creates room for him to stop and spin to find the open trailer. In this case it is Ribeiro just off screen entering the zone.

He passes to Mike Ribeiro trailing the play late (John Carlson is there too). At the top of the pic and you will see a floating Ovechkin free from the "box" as all five Devils concentrate on the new puck carrier Ribeiro (a dangerous scorer in his own right).

With that convergence, all Ribeiro has to do is dish it to a now wide open Ovechkin.

Much celebration as the puck is one timed to the back of the net. I threw in some arrows if you don't see it. Chimera is a happy guy 'cause he gets on the scoresheet with a secondary assist.

By Ovechkin handing off the puck and forcing the Devils to make a decsision, follow the current puck carrier or stay on Ovechkin who doesn't have the puck, created some break down for the Devils in their own zone on the break. Add Chimera's speed to make room for the pass to the trailing forward or defenseman and the defensive system that once stifled Ovechkin has broken down and given him a pretty darn good chance to score on net (which he did).

The system Adam Oates has put in has brought the offensive excitement back to DC. It has also made this team a very dangerous one to play in the NHL. Because the power play is not smoking hot, the Capitals are finding a lot more room on the ice 5 on 5. With that room they will be able to make plays like these more common place. We hope.

No comments: