Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Ups and Downs of Defense First
Once John Carlson scored the go-ahead goal for the Capitals in Game Five against the Rangers, the CBC crew wondered how much more time Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom would get the rest of the game, as the Caps have been know to go into full defense mode after taking a lead.
Almost on cue, the Caps started playing the grind players more and seemingly playing a 0-1-4 scheme on the forecheck; something I'm sure not done before in recorded history.
Yet, that's what "Hunter Hockey" seems to be for the Caps and coach Dale Hunter, get the lead and start to play more defensively responsible, which is good when people buy into it. It seems that the Caps have done that, with even Ovechkin getting into the blocked shots category and putting the team before himself, almost learning maturity on the fly for the often criticized captain.
And while the Caps were able to create some odd-man rushes in the third period, including a Backstrom shot off the post; the fact the Caps keep collapsing into their goalie when they have the opponents seem to be crashing on Braden Holtby would do more harm that good. Even so, the style the Caps have could have lead to the game-winning goal with the style of blocking the Caps do-- Tebow-esque, as I would call it.
Sure, the Caps actually learning a defense-first thing is solid, but there's still kinks it and the transition game could be a little stronger; but it's a learning process. It may not be the best time to keep learning during the playoffs-- but that's another story for another time.
But back to the point about their blocking style-- which teams will figure out, especially if you're playing a team in a best-of-seven series. Much like a new goalie, at the start-- they'll be fantastic and shooters won't know what to do because there's no scouting report, but in time; teams will figure it out. It seems the Rangers are doing that right now, which could be the demise of Capitals.
(And yes, the Joel Ward double-minor didn't help, but that adds to the adaptation needed.)
While there's still Game Six and maybe Game Seven to go, the fact that the book on the Caps is pretty cut-and-dried about their blocking style and how they go into a shell after a lead; even if they do get to the next round...they'll be pretty worse for wear in the Conference Finals.