Working OvertimePosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Each of the Caps’ first two playoff games this spring has gone into overtime, resulting in an extra 24 minutes and 14 seconds of hockey for Washington. Each of the Caps’ top four defensemen is averaging 25 minutes or more per contest, and all four rank among the top 23 among defensemen in average ice time per contest. The Caps have limited the Boston Bruins – the league’s third-ranked offensive team during the regular season – to just two goals in two games to start the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The netminding of 22-year-old rookie Braden Holtby has played a big part in limiting the Boston attack. Holtby has stopped 72 of the 74 shots he has faced for a 0.83 GAA and a .973 save pct. Holtby has had a good deal of help from his teammates, as he is the first to acknowledge, with the Washington blueline corps playing a key role in the team’s overall defensive success in the series to date. The Caps defensemen have been effective at taking away time and space down low and clearing pucks from harm's way in front of Holtby. There could be a long way to go in this series -- with a lot more time and space needing to be taken away, and a lot more pucks to be swept away -- so the Caps’ blueliners enjoyed a day off on Sunday before they return to the rigors of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Monday’s Game 3 at Verizon Center. Mike Green led the Caps with 33:28 in Saturday’s Game 2. He has averaged 27:14 a night to rank 11th in the NHL in ice time among defensemen early in the Stanley Cup playoffs. “I had a lot of energy,” he said after Sunday’s team meeting. “It’s probably the best I’ve felt in two years.” Karl Alzner skated 31:11 on Saturday and his average of 27:06 is 12th among NHL blueliners. He laid five hits, blocked five shots, had three shots on net and was the game’s No. 2 star. Alzner is leading Caps defensemen with seven hits in the Boston series. “I actually feel pretty good today,” said Alzner on Sunday. “It’s definitely tough to play that much. I couldn’t imagine having to play upper 20s, 30 minutes all season long, but it’s fun. It keeps you really, really into the game when you’re out there as much as we were. They’re tough games. They wear down on you pretty good.” John Carlson logged 31:21 on Saturday, and he ranks 18th among NHL defensemen with an average of 26:22 a night. “It’s not too bad, actually,” said Carlson of his condition after the Caps’ double-overtime win on Saturday in what has been a physical series to date. “Everyone here is in good spirits. I think that was a huge win for our confidence. Everyone is a little bit happier today than after last game even though we played well. It was a good maintenance day for everyone and that will get everyone going for [Game 3].” Roman Hamrlik will play in the 100th Stanley Cup playoff game on Monday against Boston. He relishes playing at this time of year, and it shows. Hamrlik’s nine blocked shots in the playoffs to date are third-most among all NHL defensemen. His 25:35 nightly average through two games ranks 22nd among league defensemen. “You just have to focus on keeping the shifts short out there and not be staying out too long,” said Hamrlik. “But it’s going on with both teams. Obviously you want to win in 60 minutes, but it’s more exciting when you win in overtime like [Saturday] night. Just keep your feet moving and focus on every shift.” There’s no telling quite yet just how long this series will go, but with two overtime games already, rest could be key. The two teams face the possibility of the only games on back-to-back nights of any of the eight first-round series, and if it goes that far, there will also be three games in four nights beginning with Thursday's Game 4 in Washington.
Two games into the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Boston-Washington series is as tight as it can be. Going forward, it’s likely we’ll see more of the same. With such a high level of tightness, every shift, every hit, every check, every face-off and every turnover becomes more magnified. Everything