NASHVILLE, Tenn. | Capitals players don’t need to be reminded that a lot of good teams in the NHL win by blocking shots. Anyone who was around for the 2010 playoffs remembers how the Canadiens did just that, with Jaroslav Halak turning aside just about every puck that got to him.
So it’s a familiar problem to say the least. But Wednesday night was a less-than-friendly reminder of how that can bring an offense to a dead stop. The Predators blocked 14 Caps shots.
“They blocked a lot of shots. They get into the lanes really well,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re a good hockey club. They sacrificed out there.”
Blocking 14 shots in a preseason game won’t break any records, but it’s jarring considering the Caps managed only 10 shots in the first two periods. Washington couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going on offense, and its defensive miscues made this one pretty lopsided.
“We talked about that between periods. They seemed to have all five of their guys right in the middle, right in the house,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It was obviously a whole team effort. Obviously the D got to get them through, but if we’ve got to shoot them off the side of the net, the forwards have to get it back. And we weren’t doing enough of that.”
Of course there was plenty of praise for Nashville. Barry Trotz’s Predators have become a perennial playoff team because of a tight-checking style that makes shot-blocking essential.
“I thought we got a little bit better, still a bit sloppy at time in our own end, but tonight I think a lot of men were sacrificing their bodies,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “Guys were giving it up and blocking a lot of shots.”
If nothing else, they were blocking timely ones. By the time the Caps managed 14 shots in the third period, the Predators had built a lead up and even managed to ice it with a power-play goal of their own.
The Caps were kicking themselves for giving up goals on the defensive end, but Nashville made life extremely hard on them.
“They were stepping in front of them and getting in front of our guys so they could block them and shoot them down,” defenseman Mike Green said. “It made it very difficult for us to create any offense because usually we like to get shots off the bat and create some confusion.”
Instead, the confusion was left for the Caps to figure out – again – how to solve this problem.