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Patience Over Volume

Posted on March 04, 2013 by Mike Vogel

At the end of the second period of Saturday’s game against the Jets in Winnipeg, the Caps held a 1-0 lead. By that stage of the game, the Jets had taken a total of 36 shots, getting 19 on net while eight were blocked and nine missed the net. The Caps had taken 33 shots of their own, getting 18 on net, having six blocked and missing with nine.


Early in the third, the Caps scored twice to take control of the game on the scoreboard. At that point, the Jets held a 42-38 lead in shots attempted.


Over the game’s final 15 minutes and 44 seconds, the Caps did not register a shot on goal. The Jets attempted 24 shots to just six for the Capitals.


Nearly half of those Winnipeg shot attempts were squeezed into a span of just 82 seconds while the Jets were on the power play.


With Washington u 3-0, Caps right wing Joel Ward went to the box for slashing at 6:51 of the third. Winnipeg won the ensuing face-off in Washington’s end of the ice, and the Jets started a stretch in which they attempted 11 shots in a mere 82 seconds, getting seven of them on net. Winnipeg had three shots blocked and it missed the net once.


“You can feel it,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “You can feel it in a game whenever a team starts making their push and picks it up just a little bit more. That’s usually what happens; they start funneling everything to the net. It doesn’t matter where from.


“Winnipeg usually takes a lot of shots from its points and even from the perimeter. You just felt it; that was their push right there. The guys did a really good job of pushing back and obviously Holtsy stood in there. It’s funny, you definitely feel that tide change, but I thought we did a good job and showed that we can handle that.”


Holtby made one-fifth of the total of 35 saves he made in the entire game during that 82-second stretch, but he wasn’t worried that the Caps were losing control. Holtby actually prefers a shooting gallery situation when the Capitals are shorthanded, much preferring it over the opposition making a series of tape-to-tape passes across the ice.


“I like it when teams shoot,” says the Caps’ goaltender. “That usually is a sign of not having much confidence with the puck, shooting it too early and shooting it at times when you’re not usually going to get a goal out of it. It’s a good sign usually.


“That game, I think they finished with 35 shots but it was one of the best defensive games we’ve had. There are a lot of times when you get 20 shots, but you get twice as many good scoring chances against. The shot total wasn’t reflective of how we played, that’s for sure.”


Caps center Jay Beagle agrees with Holtby’s viewpoint.


“I’m with Holts,” says Beagle. “I like it when they get it at the point and they just tee it up and shoot it. Obviously you’ve got to come up with some huge blocks and he’s got to come up with some huge saves, but I think you get in trouble on the PK when they’re passing it back and forth and then they go across ice and they’re spreading you out. Now you’re moving a lot, and they’re 2-on-1-ing someone; they’re segregating someone to a 2-on-1 situation and going cross-ice with a few passes.


“You’re starting to get tired and worn out, and then they tee one up and find a guy open. That’s a lot harder to kill than if they get a pass up front and they shoot it right away. There’s a chance that it’s going to get blocked and we’re going to get possession and whack it down ice. When they have full possession and they’re passing rinkside, up and down, back and forth and you’re stopping and starting and stopping and starting, there is no chance you’re going to get that puck because it’s on their tape. It takes a lot more out of you.


“A shot is like a trigger moment where you get a block or Holts saves it and pushes it into the corner, now we jump and we get a chance to get it down ice. Or we get a face-off where if we win it we can get it down, too.”


One of the reasons for Washington’s success on the power play this season is the Caps’ patience in passing and waiting for just the right look and the right opportunity to strike.


On a power-play chance against the Lightning in Tampa on Feb. 14, the Caps won the offensive zone draw, patiently passed the puck and waited for the precise moment to take aim on the Lightning net. It came when Mathieu Perreault threaded a perfect pass from below the goal line to Troy Brouwer in the slot nearly halfway through the man-advantage. Brouwer buried it to give the Caps a 1-0 lead in a game in which they won 4-3 and never trailed.


Washington spent just 58 seconds of that entire game on the power play. It had one extra-man shot on goal, and it cashed in. It came against a Lightning team that operates in similar fashion.


“I remember our first game that we played against Tampa,” says Holtby, referring back to the Capitals’ Jan. 19 season opener. “They were so patient. They were never taking those easy shots. It seemed like every shot that was coming, they were waiting for the perfect opportunity to try and score.


When you see a team doing that, it usually means that they’re full of confidence. They know what they’re doing. You see it on our team a lot. It’s a welcome sign when you see teams not doing that, for sure.”

Although the Jets finished with 66 shot attempts to the Caps' 44, the outcome of the game was never in question in the third period. The Caps weren't shooting because they didn't have to. Winnipeg was firing from everywhere because it was in a three-goal hole and it was desperate. Sometimes, the raw numbers don't tell the whole story. 



Posted in: Sports
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