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. Flames re-sign shot-blocking ace Bouma

    Aug 27, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    Calgary Flames v New York Islanders Calgary Flames v New York Islanders

    Finished second in the NHL among forwards last year, with 87.

  2. Looking to make the leap: Anthony Mantha

    Aug 27, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    AnthonyMantha

    Former Quebec league sniper is gunning for a gig in Detroit.

  3. Report: Rangers show interest in Malone

    Aug 27, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

    Ryan Malone Getty Images

    Former Tampa Bay forward was bought out of his contract earlier this summer, following legal troubles.

  4. Red Wings’ playoff streak borders on historic, but does it matter?

    Aug 27, 2014, 10:04 AM EDT

    Gustav Nyquist AP

    The Red Wings are rebuilding on the fly, but are they assembling a future Cup contender?

  5. Despite ‘nightmare’ season, Clarkson excited for future

    Aug 27, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    David Clarkson Getty Images

    He’ll enter the second season of his seven-year, $36.75 million contract.

  6. It’s Detroit Red Wings day on PHT

    Aug 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Henrik Zetterberg Getty Images

    They have made it to the playoffs for 23 straight seasons.

  7. NHL-to-Vegas talks gaining steam

    Aug 26, 2014, 9:57 PM EDT

    NHL Awards - Show Getty Images

    A recent report has added new fuel to the speculation on that subject.

  8. Johnston will enter camp looking for wingers for Malkin

    Aug 26, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Evgeni Malkin Getty Images

    Dupuis and Hornqvist are two of the main options.

  9. Poll: Who should be Columbus’ next captain?

    Aug 26, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT

    Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One Getty Images

    Will they go another season without one?

  10. No Vezina repeat, but Bobrovsky remains Jackets’ MVP

    Aug 26, 2014, 6:11 PM EDT

    Columbus Blue Jackets' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, of Russia, is silhouetted as he stands in front of his net before an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) AP

    He’s going into the final season of his bridge contract.

  11. Bishop not 100 percent, aims to be ‘close’ before opener

    Aug 26, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    Ben Bishop AP

    He’s looking to build off of his breakout campaign.

  12. Oilers remain hopeful Schultz will sign before camp

    Aug 26, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    Justin Schultz Getty Images

    The restricted free agent is likely to get a one or two-year deal.

  13. Under Pressure: Nathan Horton

    Aug 26, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    Columbus Blue Jackets v San Jose Sharks Getty Images

    Injuries prevented him from doing much in the first season of his seven-year, $37.1 million deal.

  14. Looking to make the leap: Alexander Wennberg

    Aug 26, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    Sweden v United States - 2013 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp Getty Images

    He could follow in Boone Jenner’s footsteps.

  15. Berube: Lecavalier needs to ‘get over’ trade rumors

    Aug 26, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT

    LecavalierPhilly Getty Images

    “I have to do a little bit better job managing him and he’s got to buy into the team.”

  16. Report: Moore, Bertuzzi still negotiating confidentiality pact

    Aug 26, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    Bertuzzi Moore

    But per Bertuzzi’s lawyer, the settlement has been agreed upon.

  17. Will Johansen be the latest Overhardt holdout?

    Aug 26, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT

    Ryan Johansen Getty Images

    Player agent has a bit of history with his clients missing camp.

  18. After first playoff win, the bar’s been raised in Columbus

    Aug 26, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT

    Ryan Johansen, James Wisniewski AP

    Can they live up to the heightened expectations?

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. C. Price (1874)
  2. J. Harding (1810)
  3. J. Thornton (1790)
  4. J. Giguere (1572)
  5. A. Semin (1524)
  1. J. Spezza (1517)
  2. C. MacArthur (1506)
  3. M. Staal (1448)
  4. S. Crosby (1146)
  5. R. Johansen (1132)