For the first time this season, the Washington Capitals come to town to square off against our Blueshirts. The Caps weren’t too busy this offseason, but they made two significant moves that altered the makeup of their club. First, they let winger Alex Semin head for Carolina via free agency. Second, they traded for Mike Ribeiro to fill the role of second line center. Ribeiro has been better than advertised, and currently leads the team in scoring.
Under new coach Adam Oates, the Caps were got off to a horrendous start to the year, finishing January with a 1-5-1 record. They’ve played better hockey since then, albeit barely above .500 hockey. Oates represents the third coaching change in two seasons for the Caps, who fired Bruce Boudreau in the middle of last season, replaced him with Dale Hunter, and then replaced Hunter with Oates in the offseason.
Under Boudreau, the Caps played 2-1-2 forecheck, much like what the Rangers play today. When Boudreau was on the hot seat, he switched to a passive 1-2-2 trap, which didn’t really sit well with his skaters (note: Ovechkin) who preferred to attack the puck. Under Hunter, the forechecking system remained as a 1-2-2 trap.
Under Oates, the Caps still play the 1-2-2 system, but they don’t necessarily use it as a trap. While this system is generally passive, the Caps use it in conjunction with a 2-1-2, making it a more aggressive hybrid forecheck. For more details on the forechecking systems, be sure to check out this post.
In the defensive zone, Oates continues with this hybrid theme –which is why the Caps have started off so slow, it’s not just new systems, it’s new hybrid systems that take a while to learn– and alternates between an overload defensive strategy and a collapsing strategy. The collapsing strategy should look familiar, as it’s what the Rangers play. But the overload defensive strategy is the first we’ve seen this year.
Suit will write a more detailed post on this soon, but in essence, the overload is an attempt to outnumber the opposition along the strong side wall and prevent cross ice passes. Naturally this depends on the location of the puck, hence a hybrid between the overload and a collapsing box.
With the man advantage, the Caps have again made another switch, this time switching from the umbrella strategy to the 1-3-1 strategy. The 1-3-1 was made famous by the Lightning, and the Caps definitely have the skill to pull it off.
The Caps are a team in transition in every aspect of their game, and it’s going to take a while to adjust to the multiple hybrid strategies run by Oates. But they are a team that will get more dangerous as the season progresses.
2012-2013 Records: Capitals (5-8-1), Rangers (7-5-1)
NYR Leading Scorer: Rick Nash (3-8-11)
WSH Leading Scorer: Mike Ribeiro (5-12-17)
Opposition Blog: Rock the Red
Broadcast Info: NBCSN (Cablevision: 408, Comcast: 848, Direct TV: 220, Fios: 590, Time Warner: 481)
Torts Post Practice Interview from Saturday: