BOSTON | Braden Holtby, Dale Hunter and countless others have given the Washington Capitals’ skaters plenty of credit for playing strong defense, blocking shots and limiting chances in the first four games against the Boston Bruins.
They need to do more of the same in Game 5 Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
“Just keep then out of the middle. They’re such highly skilled players, they got great shots that they’re going to make us pay if we’re giving them a lot of chances in the slot,” defenseman John Carlson said. “As best we can do to keep them to the outside it’s going to help us and our goalie. That was our game plan from Game 1 and it’s still the same.”
In the process, the Caps have frustrated the Bruins. And that doesn’t just mean Holtby, who has stopped 141 of 148 shots Boston has sent his way.
“You can kind of hear what they’re talking about. They feel that they haven’t been getting the second and third chances around the net,” veteran right wing Mike Knuble said. “Quietly I think we’ve been very effective at doing that. Giving up shots, they seem to be from the outside, and I think our defense have done a nice job of picking up sticks and obstructing their guys from getting second and third chances at the puck.”
But there have been some scary moments, or ones that should probably have been good scoring chances.
“There have been times when pucks have dropped around the crease and laid there for a split second and laid there for what seems like an eternity, but they haven’t been able to get a stick on it,” Knuble said. “I think we’ve been fortunate.”
John Erskine’s presence for Game 4 was seen as an improvement for the Caps’ play in front of their net. But it wasn’t just about him; team-wide they did a better job giving Holtby space.
Carlson said the key for the defensemen is positioning there.
“If we’re in good position, usually you got to make them go around you to get to the net,” Carlson said. “We don’t want to give them any easy ones and we don’t want them to get to the net easy, either.”
Up front, the Caps’ defensive forward lines do the job by not just blocking shots but wearing down the Bruins’ top players.
“We’re just trying to work our hardest and play as much as we can in their end,” forward Jay Beagle said. “Even talking the last couple days, we’d like to play a little more in their end and make it harder on them to get any offense.”