Everyone in the media has been quick to praise Bruce “Mr. Haagan-Dazs” Boudreau lately about his ability to get Ovechkin and company to buy into a more “defensive system.” In case you missed the love fest, color analysts have been pouring over film of recent Capitals games to highlight how ridiculously skilled players like Backstrom and Ovie are no longer trying to outgun opponents, but are instead hanging back and plugging up the neutral zone in 1-2-2 and 2-3 formations.
Don’t get me wrong, it certainly makes for an entertaining pre-game to have some talking head scribble blue highlighter across your screen to point out that a random Capital forward is collapsing in front of his net instead of looking for the home run pass. Yet in all this “expert” analysis, the one thing everyone is failing to mention is that the Capitals are playing games that are much closer than they should be.
If you look back at their games over the past month or two, it was rare that they blew anyone out. Many games were decided by just a goal, which is a far cry from seasons past. Now I know a win is a win, but damn a lot of those games could have gone either way and that includes the three post-season games thus far against the Rangers.
If I’m Bruce Boudonuts, the last strategy I’d utilize is one that invites the Rangers to grind out a victory. We are certainly capable of winning games of this nature. My tactics wouldn’t be to hang back and play passive hockey. I would be sending my players after the puck and daring the Rangers’ defensemen to make a move on us.
The Rangers defense, while solid, is still young, immobile, and lacks offensive flair in the OZ. If you pressure them on the blueline, they can turn the puck over and cause breakaways in the other direction. If for some reason you do get caught, it’s not like Dan Girardi is going to make you pay for it.
If you ask me, I’m more than happy to see Alexander Ovechkin, the greatest hockey player in the world, stationed further away from Henrik Lundqvist.
This series is close folks, closer than you think. And if the Capitals keep hanging back and letting the Rangers come to them, we might actually be able to get by them altogether.