Caps Need To Be Harder to Play AgainstPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Watching last night’s game against Winnipeg, I wasn’t focusing on why the Caps gave up what goals or what happened on this play or that. I was just noticing that they didn’t look to me like a particularly difficult team to play against. When I went into the room afterwards, I didn’t ask about why certain goals were scored or why certain defensive breakdowns occurred. I rarely need to ask such things anyway; I don’t write game stories. You can get several game stories after every game. I am usually interested in other things. Last night, I wanted to ask some of the Caps if they thought they were hard enough to play against right now. Early in the season, they were. Night in and night out. There have been a few games lately where they didn’t appear to me to be as difficult to play against. Last night in Winnipeg was one of those nights. Games are going to be lost. Dozens of them. But those wins should be tough for the other team to come by. For a span of 45 minutes and 45 seconds in Winnipeg on Thursday, the Caps were not credited with a single hit, as I noted in last night’s Postgame Notebook. There are some problems inherent with the crediting of hits, as I note in the Notebook and as Caps coach Bruce Boudreau notes below, too. But it certainly doesn’t reflect well on Washington that it played that long in a game against a divisional foe without doing anything that made the guy upstairs in charge of charting hits make a chicken mark on his notepad. I noticed it, too. And I wanted to ask about it. Here are the responses I got: “I think we had a pretty good start,” said Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “The last couple of games, we had a pretty good start, we get the lead and … we have to score another one for our confidence. “We made two mistakes in our zone. The third goal, when we didn’t score the goal shorthanded it was again a mistake. We gave them the chances. If we give them chances, they are going to use them.” “I don’t think we’re coming at teams in waves the way we were at the beginning of the year,” said Jeff Halpern. “And a lot of that has to do with just not executing. We’re struggling breaking out of our own end, which causes us to spend 15, 20 or 30 seconds in our own end at the beginning of shifts or during shifts. We’re not getting through the neutral zone with any speed and we’re not getting on pucks on our forecheck. “When you’re not doing those things, you’re not going to look good and you’re not going to be able to sustain any pressure. But that’s on us. That’s on the players in the room. Coaches draw it up on the board and it’s up to the players to do it. You can always fall back on those things when things aren’t going well and we’re not relying on those things right now as players. “Yeah, that’s on us.” “Obviously not,” says defenseman Karl Alzner. “We’re definitely not hard enough. We thought we were pretty good in Nashville – I thought at least – and couldn’t get the goals. We played bad against a team like Dallas, and just straight up lose. Even when we are playing good it doesn’t seem to be going for us. I don’t know if that’s because teams are so amped up and always give us their best just like usually d-men give Ovi their best and it’s hard for him to produce. I don’t know if that has something to do with it. But we obviously are doing something wrong and something has to change quick.” Today, I got a chance to put the same question to Brooks Laich. “No, I don’t think so,” said Laich. “I would guess that’s the answer you’re getting from the other guys. When we play our best, we do video and you can see it on the video. We move our feet, we’re tough to play against, we take time and space away and teams don’t get any chances. “And last night, they had three 2-on-1s in the first eight minutes or something and [Evander] Kane has a partial breakaway and hits the post. That’s not us. That’s not our identity. We have to get back to playing together, playing tight and trying to suffocate the other team, make it hard on them and then that will play into our hands.” This afternoon, Boudreau was asked a similar question by another reporter. “I think we’ve got the capability,” said Boudreau. “I think we’re the third tallest and second-heaviest team in the league. We’re not using our size to our advantage. “I think when we used to score a lot of goals it was from cycling and working hard in the corners and we’re not getting them now. Last night, they credited us with five hits, even though I know they didn’t credit Matt Hendricks with two that I watched. I don’t know how many they missed. I know in Nashville we had eight hits. “We generally get between 25 and 30 hits a game. When you do that, then we’re playing the game we can play. The overtime loss against New Jersey, Ovi had 11 hits himself. That’s the kind of game we want to get to. We’ve identified that; that we have to be a little harder to play against. Hopefully we’ll be a little harder to play against tomorrow.” I would think so.
Tonight’s Hockey Night in Canada match-up at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto features a pair of struggling teams that are each 1-4-1 in their last six games. A mere six points separates the five teams in Washington’s Southeast Division and just five points separates the five clubs in Toronto’s