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Orpik: "They Were Really, Really Tired"

Making d-men tired. (By Keith Srakocic - AP)

I've never exactly understood why it is that when one team controls the ball, in virtually any sport, the other team ends up looking tired. Sure, there are some substitution rules that can work in favor of the offense--in both football and hockey at least--and sure, you could argue that you expend more energy playing defense. But some of it must be mental. Offensive linemen always talk about seeing d-linemen with hands-on-hips or gasping for breath, and then going for the kill. Why wouldn't sustained drives also make the o-linemen short of breath? Maybe it's just more fun to go for the kill than to wait for it on the other side.

Regardless, any time you see hands-on-hips, guys hunched over breathing hard after whistles, it's usually a good idea to ask what was going on.

"It was tough to control the puck with the way the ice was here tonight, but I thought about halfway through the game you could really, really see, especially their defensemen, were getting really, really tired," Brooks Orpik told me. "We kept chipping it behind them, and I don't know what the hits stat was, but we really, really did a number on their defensemen going back for the puck. And you could tell, especially in the third period, they were really, really tired."

The hits stat, for the record, was 44-31, in favor of the Pens. It's harder to quantify the hands-on-hips moments. Both teams were doing it, and maybe you just notice it more when a team seems back on its heels, but from the second period on there were moments--before faceoffs, leaving the ice for intermissions--when the body language clearly seemed to favor the Penguins.

"They had their foot on the pedal the whole second half of the game, and they deserved to win tonight," Mike Green said. "It's playoffs, you've got to suck it up. But it seemed like they were coming at us in waves and that's why we couldn't make any plays, and therefore we're running around in our own zone, wasting our energy. So yeah, we were a little bit tired, but like I said, they deserved to win tonight, they played a better game than us."

Some Pittsburgh players, who oozed the same kind of confidence we saw from the Caps after Game 3 in New York, said that their dominance was a result of them staying with their system, and not getting frustrated after the first two games.

"Guys were saying how if we kept playing the same way, keep the pressure on in the offensive zone and not let up, if we keep playing that way we're gonna tire them down and get opportunities," Pens Coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think we played for long periods in the offensive zone, they're on defense, they're forced to be there, scrums at the net, a couple icings they have to stay out, and that's when you can get teams tired out...That's part of how we like to play, and we were effective at that for many periods of the hockey game."

"We had a lot more time in the offensive zone, we had more control of the puck," Kris Letang said. "I mean, it's always tough to play defense, chasing the puck all night long."

"When we forecheck and when we hit those D, they're gonna get tired," Max Talbot added. "And I think we had the puck for most of the game, we were hitting them, and I think they get tired. And that's good for us."

For whatever it's worth, the Penguins are skating at their complex this morning. The Caps canceled their scheduled practice, and are meeting with the media this afternoon at their hotel.

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 7, 2009; 9:58 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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look at it this way...

they played as good as they possibly could, the CAPS were below average...and we still took them to OT.

Posted by: carsonspence | May 7, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The Caps canceled their scheduled practice, and are meeting with the media this afternoon at their hotel.

Ugh oh, that bound to make poor little Jory very upset!

Posted by: RedBirdie | May 7, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The NHL's television partners want a long series. Hence, 7 penalties on the Caps and 2 on Pissburgh. Think the refs got a little phone call from Bettman before the game?

Posted by: poguesmahone | May 7, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

You expend more energy playing defense than you do on offense. I think it has to do with trying to prevent someone from doing something then trying to do it i.e. if you expend X amount of energy in doing something the person trying to stop you needs to expend X + at least 1 to stop you.

Posted by: SteelHop | May 7, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

You expend less energy on offense because you know somewhat what the plays and moves are. On defense, you need to cover all directions. You don't know as much what is happening, where the ball/puck is headed. This is all generally speaking of course...

Posted by: gidge | May 7, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I'd agree with the fatigue assessment, and most likely, there are some banged up defenseman - particularly Green and Poti - which exacerbates the situation.

They had a very difficult time clearing the zone last night.

Posted by: stormblue | May 7, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Nice in-depth real sports reporting there, Dan.

Posted by: makplan20002 | May 7, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

To pogous mahone:
There were 7 penalties on the Capitals and only 2 on Pittsburgh because the Capitals were getting beat badly. The officials didn't outshoot the Caps by 19. Quit whining like the Caps competition in the last two series.

Pittsburgh was better in every phase of the game.

Caps are up 2-1.

Posted by: bflorhodes | May 7, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The Pens must now be expending all that energy they saved up during the first half of the regular season. Lucky/unlucky bounces and officiating aside, Caps are/were a better team -- they really need to start playing like it now.

Posted by: AmyS1 | May 7, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Oops! I almost forgot....


Posted by: AmyS1 | May 7, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Generally, defense is mentally fatiguing because it is all about reacting - it requires constant mental awareness, and consequently your body and muscles need to be tight, coiled, and ready to react. On offense you can play smoother and more relaxed - only expending energy in bursts, and when you are ready - whereas defense is more of a steady hum of energy with sometimes highly sustained bursts to counter the offense.

Now I've never played hockey - but that's my experience in most other sports. Hockey actually seems a bit different (what with the forechecking and all) but it still must take a heck of a lot of energy to chase the puck around when a team is passing it well. Just think about how much difference in movement there is between offensive and defensive players on the power play.

Posted by: icantfeelmyface | May 7, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"The NHL's television partners want a long series. Hence, 7 penalties on the Caps and 2 on Pissburgh. Think the refs got a little phone call from Bettman before the game?"

Keep believing that if that makes you feel better about the Caps' poor performance. The away team was often flat-footed and were penalized for hooking, interfering, etc. as they attempted to try and keep up with a team that was playing more effectively on both sides of the ice. Varlamov kept that game from being a blow out.

Posted by: LonnieBeale1 | May 7, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I've played D for over 40 years and I can assure everyone that getting pinned in your own zone is exhausting. First, you are either moving constantly side-to-side, stopping-starting, stopping-starting which takes more energy than skating forward, or you are wrestling with some guy in front of the net who is trying to screen your goalie. Second, you can't get off, so you have too long a shift, which takes longer to recover from. The right D, such as Green, has an especially long way to the bench in the second period and first overtime. Plus, the rule change on icing takes away that form of relief.

Posted by: billmelater | May 7, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Historically speaking, in the Conference Semis, the home team in game three, down 0-2, wins 63% of the time. In the follow-on game, game four at home, down 1-2, the home team only wins 51% of the time. The Pens played better than the Caps last night and we all saw it. They were despeate like the Caps in game 3 last series, and it showed. Our best chance in Pittsburgh was always going to be game 4. I'm not worried in the least.

Posted by: saintex | May 7, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Our best chance in Pittsburgh was always going to be game 4. I'm not worried in the least.


Posted by: thiazzi | May 7, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: saintex | May 7, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

How hard is it to figure out??? If you killing penalties all the time your D is going to get tired. Playing defense is harder than playing offense.

Sometimes I wonder if the media in DC has a clue about hockey at all. Has anyone ever put on the skates and played the game???

Posted by: TJ2008 | May 7, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"sure, you could argue that you expend more energy playing defense"

It's very simple. Try playing this very simple game: follow the leader. Have one person jog/run in different circles, angles, lines, speeds, etc., then have another guy try and follow directly behind, mimicking everything he does.

I guarantee you the 'follower' becomes exponentially more tired. When you don't know what will happen (the defender), the reaction to catch up expends much more energy than the guy that already knows what he wants to do (the attacker).

Posted by: psps23 | May 7, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

They probably were very tired. You can't run around in your own zone like that for the whole game and not be worn down. They played a really bad game and by the third and overtime there was nothing left. Somehow managed to tie it up in the 3rd but they really didn't have anything going for them that whole game other than Varlamov and doing a good job of clearing rebounds. But there was no pressure on Fleury or the Pens D at all. They really need Semin, Backstrom and Green to pick it up a bit.

Posted by: Stu_c | May 7, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Saintex- very reasonable comment and quite astute.

Pittsburgh played well and deservedly won, and Washington looked horrible for the last two periods.

Varlamov gives Washington a chance in every game. If I were a Washington fan I'd be quite happy taking his goaltending with their offence.

Posted by: jcurrin | May 7, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

None of these geniuses can address why Pissburgh only got two penalties. Of COURSE, the Caps are going to be skating up hill if they rarely get power plays and the opposition gets plenty. Just Buttman wanting the series to go six or seven. That's it.

Posted by: poguesmahone | May 7, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

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