Caps Good, Need to be BetterPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Heading into Saturday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, the Capitals have a number of things they should be quite pleased with. Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby more than held his own in the series opener on Thursday, stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced. The only one that beat him was Chris Kelly’s overtime game-winner. The Caps withstood the body barrage they knew was coming from the physical Bruins; and they did a good job of limiting Boston’s chances in even-strength situations. Washington’s penalty killing corps was excellent, snuffing out all four Boston power play chances, a quartet of opportunities that came in short succession. The Caps blocked a total of 22 shots on the night, and eight of those came during the eight minutes of the game while Boston had the man advantage. There are no moral victories in the playoffs. The Caps didn’t find the back of the net. They never led. They didn’t score on the power play, and they didn’t test Boston netminder Tim Thomas nearly enough. “We’re putting it behind us now,” says Holtby of Game 1. “You can’t really think about it too much. It was a loss. We need to have a rebound game tomorrow.” The Bruins routinely go to the net hard, something the Caps could benefit from doing at their own end of the ice. “I noticed that a bit, a few times,” says Holtby of Boston’s proclivity to crash the crease. “I took a penalty I probably shouldn’t have taken and the guys did a great job killing it off for me. They’re an aggressive team and they play to win. Our job is to counter that, especially myself battling for position in my crease to fight to find shots through traffic. There were times where I lost it [Thursday] and I want to be better at it tomorrow.” Caps goaltending coach Dave Prior noted sagely that the Bruins would be more diligent at helping Thomas in front of the net once the playoffs started, and he also correctly noted that Caps would need to work hard to get second chances against Thomas. “Many goaltenders, the way you play you always have some vulnerabilities in your style,’ observed Prior. “With Tim, it’s harder to pin down what those might be because he can be unpredictable. He competes, he’s very aggressive and he makes you earn your goals. I thought he was outstanding last year in the playoffs and deserving of all the trophies he won last year. “This year, he hasn’t been quite as stingy over the season in his goaltending. But some of the games where we’ve scored goals – and this is spoken like a true goaltending coach – he made the initial save and didn’t get some of the support he needed that maybe he got in the playoffs and in the final last year from his teammates. I expect their team and their defense will up their contribution to his success and he’ll be difficult to get the first shot by. We’ll work to get any scraps that he leaves around for us.” So it’s the Caps’ move now. Playoff series are all about adjustments, and the Caps need to start spending some time in the Thomas kitchen. Starting on Saturday, late brunchtime.
When your team tees up just 20 shots and gets just seven of those on net in the game’s first 40 minutes, and when it manages just 17 shots on net against the defending Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, you’ve got to do something to switch it up. With that in mind, Caps coach Dale Hunter