A very interesting comparison of Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes by Malkin and Fedotenko. I think it should be memorized by Coach Boudreau and imprinted on the wall in Washington Capitals locker room before the next season starts. :-) The description of how Caps D played vs Pens is not the recipe for winning hockey games in the playoffs, but it is a recipe how to avoid elimination in the future.
O. Mezheritski, SovSport.ru, May 20, 2009:
Ruslan, did Carolina create any problems?
Fedotenko: The Hurricanes have the third forward playing very strong. You can say that he is looking to help defense all the time. That's why Carolina doesn't allow breakaways and counter-attacks, 3 on 2, at least not too often. Our counter- attacks were practically non-existent. It turned out that we were constantly playing against the same number of opposite players. Another thing I'd like to point out is Hurricanes' character. They don't give up. For example, at the end of the first period we pinned them decently. They withstood our offense and then began to create their own scoring chances.
What can you say about the goalies?
Fedotenko: Both Ward and Fleury have played great. Our goalie helped us a lot, especially in the last minutes of the game. We were aware of the fact that Ward would play well. We need to shoot more and to put more pressure on him.
Compared to Washington Carolina's defensemen look better.
Fedotenko: Their defensemen are not very big, but they skate fast and are very quick at passing the puck. That's why it's hard to catch them in their zone. You skate to the defenseman as fast as you can, but he had already given the pass to someone.
What is the difference between Carolina and Washington?
Malkin: A completely different team. Their goalie is as good, but I think Carolina's defense is better, they play very tenacious style. Capitals can't boast about their defense, but their offense is better. So, Carolina is the Washington in reverse.
So... what we've got here?
The third forward helping defense?
Sounds like a left-wing lock.
Why Capitals were unable to leave their zone?
Because Caps D is too slow, they spend too much time deciding who to pass, doesn't matter if they're big or tall. Practice, practice, practice...
Why Pens were outshooting Capitals and creating more scoring chances?
Because they were constantly outnumbering Caps when they were attacking, 3 on 2 all the time since Caps offense (the third forward) was not helping their defense.
As I mentioned in The Lamentations of the Fallen, it's not just a free agent market or the trades that could magically improve Capitals, it's also the things to ponder for Boudreau. Something needs to be altered, not just 'run and gun' all the time, the new defensive system needs to be installed, whether it's a left-wing lock or a modified trap, something. It doesn't mean that the team has to play it all the time, it means the team has to know and practice it to flip the switch when needed. A good way to practice flipping the switch would be playing "the system" on the road and "run and gun" at home.
All right, not that anybody would listen. :-)
Allan Muir of SI.com, May 20, 2009, did listen and stole this from me: :-)
What Washington really needs might be a change behind the bench. Whether that's a new man or a new approach is up to Bruce Boudreau. He performed miracles last season, transforming the Caps from struggling underachievers into the league's most entertaining squad. That style worked wonders during the regular season, but it glossed over the team's fatal flaw: the lack of a cohesive, executable defensive scheme. They were able to get by against the Keystone Rangers and their popgun offense. Not so easy to do against a team with multiple high-end weapons like the Penguins.
To some extent, Boudreau has coached to his talent, crafting a system that makes the most of the tools at his disposal. But the team's near complete disregard for defense, and its inability to adapt as Pittsburgh exposed that weakness, is inexcusable.
The good news? It's a lot easier to teach a scorer to defend than a defender to score, so the Caps aren't in a bad spot...unless Boudreau is unable to create a system that the team will buy into. He certainly deserves another chance to do just that, but the leash won't be long. He needs to sell his players, especially Alexander Ovechkin, on the need to commit to two-way play. I'm guessing the pain of this loss will help sell his plan. If it doesn't? The Caps might need to look in another direction.
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