Capitals Spending Too Much Time Chasing Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis (26) in action against Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner (27) at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. where the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Washington Capitals 4-2 in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With the Washington Capitals down two games to none in their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, I have a suggestion for the Caps: don’t chase the Lightning in the defensive zone.

For all of the talk about how system-oriented and defensive Tampa coach Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 system is, once the Lightning enters the offensive zone, they turn into a completely different team. It’s all east-west puck movement and touch passes. It’s not about taking a ton of shots so much as it’s about taking the right shots.

Washington has been trying to play the puck in their defensive zone, but the quick Tampa puck movement winds up pulling players out of position. That’s how Capitals defenseman Mike Green got burned on that game two goal that bounced in off of his skate.

Conversely, the Capitals had a great chance on a penalty kill when Marco Sturm challenged Tampa’s points, moving up, standing still, and waiting for the puck to come to his stick, which it did, leading to a short-handed odd-man rush.

Obviously, Washington doesn’t want to become passive in its own zone, but it seems that in cases when they can’t properly play their man, they might just want to maintain their position and keep their sticks in the passing lanes.

The thing about Tampa is there’s so much puck movement, eventually the puck is going to pass a Capital. Washington just needs to anticipate the visit.

The Capitals have done very well using aggressive forechecking and backchecking to keep opponents pinned to the boards in both ends. Tampa’s offensive zone puck movement has taken Washington a little off of that game. At this point, I’m not sure that strategy will work anyway, since Tampa could draw penalties by getting rid of the puck before a Capital finishes his check.

But if Washington can resist the urge to Chase Tampa players and just protect the middle of the ice, I’m sure they’ll be able to get back in the series.

Speaking of the Capitals, Erik Erlendsson is reporting the Washington Capitals PR department cleaned up an Alexander Ovechkin quote. Erlendsson says Ovechkin told reporters “We’re going there, and we’re going to win two games…It’s going to be hard, but right now in this situation, we have to win.”

Washington’s PR department transcribed the quote as “We’re going to go there and going to have to win two games and it’s going to be hard. We have to win.”

It’s a subtle difference but as Erlendsson points out, the team transcribed quote is more gentle and a less likely candidate for Tampa bulletin board material.

There’s no way to know if Washington cleaned up the quote to protect Ovechkin or if it was just an inaccurate transcription. But it’s an interesting mistake.