Skip to content

New system, same results? Caps new defense-first approach under scrutiny if they lose

May 3, 2011, 1:17 PM EDT

Alex Ovechkin, Bruce Boudreau AP

From the moment Bruce Boudreau took over the Capitals they were a team that exemplified the excitement that NHL hockey could be all about. They were free wheeling, run-and-gun hockey and with Alex Ovechkin leading the way and scoring upwards of 50 goals per season, that brand of hockey reinvigorated Washington, D.C. The Caps were winning games, winning big, and winning in a way that drove the fans wild.

After seasons of coming up short in the playoffs and fans eager for the team to go deep but the Caps seeming unable to get over the hump in the postseason playing firewagon hockey, coach Bruce Boudreau made a change this season to switch things up to a more defensively responsible approach. Now with the Caps down 2-0 heading into Tampa Bay for Game 3, some are wondering what good it was for the team to make a change up like that only to end up with the same results.

With Boudreau’s tactical abilities being put under the microscope with the team being in such a hole, John Keeley of On Frozen Blog points out the area of the Capitals’ game that’s their undoing so far in these playoffs.

Behind the bench, there is the obvious subplot related to Bruce Boudreau. All seemed reasonably well for Gabby a week ago, but when his club was gifted a lengthy break with which to rest and repair, they came out of it unable to meet the underdog’s challenge. That story is growing old here. Boudreau’s beaten an under-manned John Tortorella set of Ranger clubs twice in the postseason over the course of four springs . . . and no one else. Losing to the rookie, Guy Boucher? At some point (potentially soon) Capitals’ fans are going to ask: where is our Bylsma, our Tortorella, our Babcock, our . . . Boucher?

The team’s power play futility is a flashpoint in this discussion of tactical leadership. Its cumulative results last postseason and this are beyond nightmarish and nauseating: four for sixty. That’s four goals . . . in 60 opportunities. Tampa would bank in 9 or 10 off our dmen with 60 extra man opportunities. The power play personnel is a mish-mash of a mess, their attack ethos uncertain. Confusion and hesitancy reign supreme. The team had all of last week to work on it and get it fixed. Instead, it’s regressed. The head coach has to get it fixed, pronto. The Capitals will either achieve a competent power play this series or they will lose it. Tampa took out the Pens by achieving a glaring special teams discrepancy.

The Caps’ inability to generate anything on the power play isn’t on the same level of failure as the Bruins, but they’re setting the bar lower and lower with each game. These Caps could use a boost and a change in strategy on the man advantage. They could also stand to see some other players standing out and playing to their potential.

One such guy is Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom was a sensation last year, but with the Caps transition to more defensive hockey he’s looked lost this season and he’s disappeared completely in the playoffs. Through seven playoff games, Backstrom has zero goals and just two assists. It’s not that he’s been bad, he’s been non-existent and a non-threat both against the Rangers and more so against the Lightning.

The focus on offense is always going to be on Ovechkin regardless of what happens. He’s the captain and that’s all part of the territory, but he’s got to get help elsewhere on the ice. Mike Knuble‘s rapid return to action was a boost but they need their top playmaking center to play to the best of his abilities and he’s not doing that. If the Caps don’t get it figured out tonight, they’re staring a summer of hard questions right in the face and there’s a lot of answers that won’t be readily available. After all, if they’re not winning it all when their offense is given free will to do as they please and they’re not winning when they’re buckling things down defensively as a playoff team is supposed to, then what’s next? Those answers could end up pretty grim.

Latest Posts
  1. St. Louis offers Upshall a professional tryout

    Sep 1, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT

    Scottie Upshall Getty Images

    The Blues have a vacancy with Patrik Berglund out for at least four months.

  2. Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

    Sep 1, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT

    2014 NHL Stadium Series - Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks Getty Images

    A few players have leapfrogged Steven Stamkos.

  3. Marchand rehabbing from offseason elbow surgery

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    Brad Marchand Getty Images

    He played through the injury in 2014-15.

  4. Flyers bring back tough guy Rosehill on AHL deal

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Chris Thorburn #22 of the Winnipeg Jets fights with Jay Rosehill #37 of the Philadelphia Flyers during third period in a game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Philadelphia Flyers on April 6, 2013 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
(April 5, 2013 - Source: Marianne Helm/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

    He spent all of last season with Lehigh Valley.

  5. Marcel Goc signs in German League

    Sep 1, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    Columbus Blue Jackets v St. Louis Blues Getty Images

    Veteran forward heads overseas after appearing in 600-plus NHL contests.

  6. Domi: I just want to make the Coyotes

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Max Domi Getty Images

    He’s got plenty of potential, but he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.

  7. Lucic jokes about running through Rask ‘like I did (to) another goalie’

    Aug 31, 2015, 10:22 PM EDT

    Milan Lucic AP

    His first game against Boston is scheduled for Feb. 9.

  8. Success for McDavid isn’t purely a numbers game

    Aug 31, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    Connor McDavid AP

    The start of his rookie campaign is approaching.

  9. Hitch finds silver lining in Berglund injury

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Patrik Berglund Getty Images

    Who will take advantage of the opening?

  10. Neuvirth cites Voracek as his reason for joining Flyers

    Aug 31, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    New York Islanders v Washington Capitals - Game Five Getty Images

    The two have previously played together on the Czech national team.

  11. Hurricanes add Ray Whitney, three others to scouting staff

    Aug 31, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Jeff Daniels Getty Images

    Former coach Jeff Daniels is also staying within the organization after being relieved of his AHL coaching duties.

  12. Poll: Will Seabrook re-sign?

    Aug 31, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT

    Brent Seabrook Getty Images

    You can expect this question to be asked throughout the year.

  13. Under Pressure: Stan Bowman

    Aug 31, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Stan Bowman AP

    Heck, the ‘Hawks are still over the salary cap ceiling.

  14. Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane?

    Aug 31, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Patrick Kane Getty Images

    Chicago’s star forward remains under police investigation.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1868)
  2. P. Kane (1641)
  3. M. Richards (1355)
  4. P. Datsyuk (1355)
  5. N. Backstrom (1215)