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Posted at 6:40 AM ET, 12/16/2010

The importance of continuing defensive intensity

By Gene Wang
Morning Roundup

With a six-game losing streak burdening the Capitals entering last night's game against Anaheim, Coach Bruce Boudreau used Tuesday's practice in part to install a game plan that paid much attention to defense. The challenge then became if his players would carry it out to a level that would yield positive results.

While the 2-1 loss certainly wasn't the outcome the Caps were seeking, the commitment to defense produced a virtual consensus in the locker room that this style uncommon for the Capitals may just be the best way to extricate themselves from the club's longest losing streak since the 2006-07 season.

"We'll see how much we are going to stick with it," right wing Mike Knuble said. "I think it was pretty good. We used a checking line tonight, which we really don't use, so we did a couple of things a little different. It was a real cat-and-mouse game for the first period, but it stayed that way some, too."

The checking line to which Knuble was referring comprised Brooks Laich, David Steckel and Matt Bradley, and they had one vigorous shift after another in triggering a defensive stand that limited the Ducks to 24 shots, including just seven in the first period.

It was a far cry from last season's blueprint for winning, when collecting goals in bunches was the preferred strategy. It worked during the regular season, but in the playoffs, when defense normally rules the day, Washington bowed out meekly in the first round to Montreal in seven games.

"I've never had to do that before, so I'm going through it myself," Boudreau said when asked if a loss such as last night's was a necessary collateral damage associated with a shift in philosophy. "So if this is the way we have to play, it's the way we have to play. We have to win the 3-1 game, the 2-1 game. It might not look as pretty, and we might not have a 60-goal scorer, even though I think we'll have at least a 50-goal scorer . . . it's going to be a more let's create chances off turnovers then go, rather than exchange rush for rush."

The Capitals had plenty of chances against Anaheim, even though they were assimilating to a different way of playing. Laich, who scored the Capitals' lone goal, had his bid for another just miss when the puck trickled past goalie Jonas Hiller only to have the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf sweep it away at the last instant before it crossed the line. Later Alex Ovechkin had a breakaway hit the crossbar, and Nicklas Backstrom's look at a wide-open net closed sooner than expected thanks to a stellar save.

The emphasis on defense yielded far more encouraging results than what transpired in Washington's most recent performance before last night. On Sunday, the Capitals lost to the New York Rangers, 7-0, in perhaps their most uninspired showing this season.

"We haven't a had a 2-1 game, I don't think, in quite some time," defenseman Karl Alzner said, "so that is nice to see we kept everything pretty low. That's a really good team out there, too. They played a good, patient game, and I think we've got to start playing more like that."

The Capitals last were involved in a 2-1 decision seven games ago, and before that, they hadn't played to that score in 17 games. It's more of those low-scoring affairs, players said, that will push Washington back on the winning side of the ledger.

"I thought the game plan the coaches set forth was fantastic," Laich said. "I think we knew tonight's game was going to be a chess match, and our staff did a fantastic job being very sharp with that. We didn't give up many chances. We had the puck most of the night, and we were the ones with the chances."


FROM THE POST
The game story from another loss, this time to the Ducks, 2-1.

Here's a bleeping recap of the first "24/7" episode, which was bleep free.


AROUND THE WEB
Tomas Fleischmann is doing just fine in Colorado, especially after posting a hat trick last night.

Ted Leonsis sees promise in another defeat. (FanHouse)

So does Joe B, but he's still fed up. (CSN Washington)

By Gene Wang  | December 16, 2010; 6:40 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Mike Knuble, Morning Roundup  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Anaheim prevails, 2-1 in OT, hands Caps seventh straight loss
Next: Complete game for Brooks Laich

Comments

@vermontcaps

i'd love some tickets for saturday. i live in Providence
mcintire_will@hotmail.com

Posted by: mcintire_will | December 16, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

The best part of the HBo series is when oVI is talking to the refs after the Semin cross check and the Ref says he F cut him. OVI reply was will maybe he has sensitive skin. Just classic. I bet if the Pens were losing their locker room would look just as dreary. I disagree I think OVI seems Captain like. Most of the guys after a fight unless they really hate one another say crap like what OVi said to Dubinski.

Posted by: pkme

What happened in the Ranger game segment (I couldn't watch it)

Man...I didn't sleep a wink last night! Caps are gonna kill me.

Posted by: capscoach | December 16, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

So If you are a coach what do you work on in practice today?

I say you spend most of your time on special teams. End the game with a some sort of shootout game like the Pens did...If this teams problem is only scoring, I gotta think they can get out of the rut. They played well last night and I am glad BB recognized that and didn'tover react like the people who posted on the boards last night. Then you reinforce with video of what they did right in that game...esp. on D.

Get healthy, get confident, and get going Caps!

Posted by: capscoach | December 16, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Last thing (for now)

notice that with this losing streak you didn't see the Caps on HBO all light hearted and not caring like some of you claim all the time.

They did look like they were feeling sorry for themselves a bit like BB said.

I think the player that REALLY needs to step up is Backstrom. Ovie needs a set up man and Backs has looked pretty bad all season.

Posted by: capscoach | December 16, 2010 7:10 AM | Report abuse

@capscoach

As of late, Backstrom has been ill. Hence probably no energy from him, as of late.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | December 16, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

How anyone can say this team played well last night is beyond me. They played a timid game with little to no fire, do they know how to make a clean, hard check??!! This team is just soft as a pillow and needs changes, was nice to FINALLY see a checking line put together but why was that 4th line not implemented more? That was the line that had the only resemblance of grit on the team.

Posted by: PhilR | December 16, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

For those who havem't seen the first HBO which aired last night you missed seeing an academy award performance from a pot bellied, over refreshed, self promting adveritising pimp whose great oratory skils had to be seen to be appreciated.

How a coach who can rant and drop f bombs multiple times in one sentence while under the bright lights of HBO expect anyone to take hime seriously is beyond me.

You could tell that like with most children who are gettting a scolding the Caps to a man were just tuning him out.

The sooner BB is shown the EXIT sign the sooner the Caps can get back on track.

He must be really proud of himself today.

What a looser.

Posted by: capper3 | December 16, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

The other thing I have got to say is that Ovie and Backs have got to start burying opportunities, BB is right in one respect that at least those two appear to be snakebit.

Posted by: PhilR | December 16, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Once again, didn't see show. Did BB appear to be just mad about team's performance, or did he seem to have lost control of team? If the latter, then problem is real.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | December 16, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

"How a coach who can rant and drop f bombs multiple times in one sentence while under the bright lights of HBO expect anyone to take hime seriously is beyond me."

I completely agree with this sentiment. I was embarrassed for Boudreau during his little meltdown/tempertantrums on the show. No wonder the players seem to tune him out and don't play his "systems". How could anyone discern a coaching message or strategy from someone who just drops F-Bombs every other word. For the record I am not offended by the F-bomb and I understand Bylsma used profanity as well. In my opinion Bylsma came off a 100 times more professional than BB and seemed to know how to communicate with his players much more effectively. It's got to be very difficult for these players to take him seriously at this point. At this point of the season this team needs someone to be a calming voice and a leader, not a raving lunatic.

Posted by: eorr | December 16, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

@kcbrichmond: He was obviously mad but at the same time there was a certain feeling to his tirades. It seemed as though he has run out of ideas and has lost control. While he was going ballistic the players just all hung their heads and seemed disinterested. Oh yeah and when he wears all red to practice it looks like Santa Claus got Ovie's Gillette deal......

Posted by: eorr | December 16, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

The sooner BB is shown the EXIT sign the sooner the Caps can get back on track.

Posted by: capper3

He can take GM with him. Listening to Dean Evason implore the team to do anything to follow the captain's lead in the NY game is painful to listen to, especially when you consider that no one listened except Hendricks. GM put together this team of stickcheckers, his head should roll as a result.

Great show overall, lot's to discuss. The OV/Dubi fight itself is one of the reasons I love hockey. They both did what they needed to for their team, and at the end gave eachother a 'good job buddy'. Great stuff.

Posted by: Fletch22 | December 16, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Here's some fun news to kick off this wonderful day.

Flash has 5 goals and 5 assits in 7 games since being traded. The Caps have not won a game since that trade. Who knew he was the glue keeping this whole thing together?

Posted by: Aldred15 | December 16, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

"The Caps have not won a game since that trade."

False, they won the St.Louis game. Just saying.

Posted by: eorr | December 16, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

On Flash, maybe GMGM should package a few number 1's and try to get him back.

Posted by: MReilly9 | December 16, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

The curse of Fleischmann..another disappointing lost. Not much more to say.

Posted by: ttn703 | December 16, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

@eorr

Right you are. What I meant to say was that they haven't won a game that they have played that Hannan has dressed for.

Posted by: Aldred15 | December 16, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I must say Hannan has been a dissapointment so far, think the Avs knew something?

Thinking back on last night, it seemed the Ducks got more and more into the game as the game wore on, probably as they realized they could get points. Unfortunately, the Caps weren't able to get the matchups used in regulation during the OT. It was an interesting game from a coaching standpoint. It showed, to me anyway, that the Caps coaching staff at least have a clue.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | December 16, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

BB sounded so horrible. Coach Dan came across more professional and seems to have a cooler personality. He also seemed like a real coach. BB sounded like someone who has communication issues. Also folks he keeps talking about unfamiliar territory last night with the press. Playing a new system and losing because of a new system. This is the coach of a professional hockey team. I could not respect this guy if he were my boss. He does not seem to have a lot of composure. He looks weak and ineffective. The F bomb parade has to stop. He sounds like a moron. He should do a commercial for Deadwood. He has to go but they will keep him here until we get tossed in the 1st or 2nd round or maybe not make the playoffs.

Posted by: pkme | December 16, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

BB is a one trick poney. Make no mistake that is the reason for The Caps success. OVI Backs and Green were on fire last year and the year before. BB has never really had to coach until this year. And guess what we have found out he is not that good. People blame the players all you want but this guy is the boss and he is not very good at.

Posted by: pkme | December 16, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I haven't got HBO so haven't seen the 24/7? video. However, continual use of the "F" word is less and less effective. Actions speak louder than words anyway.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | December 16, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to HBO. Even though it was Caps-lose, Pens-win themed, it still was captivating. Those guys are lucky to get paid to play the most fun sport, there is.
The one item I didn't like, was when OV said "Way to Go" to his Rags opponent after his fight, made it seem like a meaningless for-show fight.-still pondering that one.

Posted by: Hattrik | December 16, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

To add to what pkme was saying, everything about the Penguins organization looks so much more professional and organized. Bylsma looks like a Stanley Cup coach. Gabby looks fat, unorganized and just tuned out. Gabby looked liked the kind of coach you'd see in Slapshot. I'm not sure how much of this is "HBO spin". Hope the Caps win before next weeks episode. All the losing is getting hard to watch. I hate having to watch it twice.

Posted by: jake81 | December 16, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The biggest thing i noticed on the 24/7 show was the lack of any leadership in the dressing room. That was the most somber dressing room I have ever seen. I realize they are in an awful losing streak, but that's when your leaders need to step up and be verbal and lift the team. Nobody was doing that. If we don't win 1 of the games over the weekend, it's will be time to bring in a new coach. They need to find somebody in the locker room who will step up and lead the team or trade for somebody who will.

On, Flash...he's always been streaky, this won't last. He'll go 10 games without a point soon enough.

Posted by: CAPSHOCKEY2 | December 16, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The fighting in hockey isn't personal (for the most part). It's just a part of the game.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | December 16, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I meant that the success The Caps have had is because you would say go to OVi, Backstrom, Green and Semin and the Caps would win games. BB never really has coached this team. BB has no discipline himself as indicated by his physical condition.

Posted by: pkme | December 16, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

pkme, You are letting your anger get the better of you.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | December 16, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

The Pens looked better because of their winning streak. They still seemed more professional and organized as Jake indicated. I do not think they will can BB until after The Winter Classic and that is assuming The Caps are still losing which we have no reason to expect otherwise. Folks I think this slide will continue for a little longer. Bruins should put The Caps away. The Sens will absolutely win. We might pick off NJ on Tuesday.

Posted by: pkme | December 16, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

That is what I was thinking two games ago. We'll see.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | December 16, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Flordia

I was angry when we lost to Montreal not now. Even during the regular season last year I did not think The Caps were a Stanley CUP team. I did think they were going to get past the first round. BB in my opinion can not coach himself out of a wet paper bag. Talent carried the team for awhile now and you can clearly see that and BB is the Boss and I am not impressed. The players like BB because he allows them to be lazy and do whatever they want to do.

Posted by: pkme | December 16, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I haven't watched the 24/7 yet because Comcast sucks. Our picture and sound last night was horrible, I guess because of some cable problems in the area. I also didn't watch the last 10 minutes of the game or OT because it got so bad. I'll be watching 24/7 today.

As far as the game last night goes, it's nice to see some different things work to a degree. However, it's pretty bad that we still lost. Maybe they really are trying to change the style, and maybe they'll be successful, but one game isn't a good indication of that. I still don't think they played great last night. They need to do a better job of consistent forechecking, for one. And we really need to start shooting the puck better. That means Ovie, Nicky and most others. It seems like maybe 50% of their shots are even on net, and 90% of the ones on net aren't very good shots. They are rarely making the goalie do much work.

Posted by: TheDoubleAlex | December 16, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

pkme, I was referring to the following statement: "BB has no discipline himself as indicated by his physical condition."

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | December 16, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

We will see. None of us know more about hockey than Mcphee but I can see with my own eyes that this team is pooly coached. After watching The HBO thing it confirmed a lot of things. BB does not seem to be a good leader.

Posted by: pkme | December 16, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

flordia

Yes I probably should not have said that one. My visual of BB is him having two Nathan hotdogs in each hand during intermission and yelling at the guys while he takes a bite. Someone said he could take his shirt off and that would inspire the guys to never lose again.

Posted by: pkme | December 16, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure but I thought I saw an new ad last night that involved him dancing on a stage in a track suit with the audience aghast. It was an ad for a mercedes benz dealer in the DC area. Those kinds of ads are great if you are winning but can bite you if you are not. Hindsight is 20/20, but it would have been more prudent not to do them imho.

Do the coaches of other teams around the league make ads?

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | December 16, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

To those who flamed me regarding my post from yesterday:

Comments like:

"I looked past most of it..."

and

"...garbage, garbage ..."

...tell me that you obviously didn't read my post carefully and completely as I respectfully asked in my disclaimer.

Instead you took my remarks out of context, and took them pesonally.

Whatever.

In all fairness, I probably could have used fewer words, and for that, I do apologize...

...But I have to stick to my guns.

You want to see GMGM gone. Fine.
You want to see BB gone. Fine.

I don't agree at this juncture, but that's beside the point.

My central point remains this:

If you call yourself a fan of this team, by all means rant for changes as much as you desire...even if I don't agree with those changes, I will still accept (and respect) as fact: that you care about the team.

But I still believe in my heart that you should never, ever root for your team to lose. It's just fundamentally wrong.

There is one, and only one situation where it is even remotely acceptable to do so. That would be: if your team is doing so badly at the end of the season that the team's position in the coming year's draft hinges on the outcome of the game (e.g., if winning the game means not winning the draft lottery).

7 consecutive losses stinks--there is no disputing that, and I think we all find ourselves wondering when this pain will end--but this year's Caps are not even close to doing so badly that the above exception would apply.

People who are supposed to be fans of this team, rooting for them to lose...No two ways about it, it stinks.

The only thing on this blog that angers me more is the trolls who seem to get a big kick out of saying (ad nauseam) that the Caps "will never win a cup". I feel compelled to ask such people:

"Really? And while you're at it, can I also have next week's PowerBall numbers?"

'nuff said.

Posted by: Rhino40 | December 16, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm an Ovi fan but sure would like to see him play as agressively on defense as he does on offense. That Getzlaf game winner haunts me. Ovi could have challenged him, particularly because Hannah was slow getting to Getzlaf and he had lots of room. It is true Hannah was late and didn't try to block, but an Ovi challenge would have likely prevented that shot.

Posted by: JimW5 | December 16, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

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