Brooks Laich was pretty clear about what’s going wrong with the Washington Capitals of late.
“I’m sick and tired of giving up easy goals,” he said Tuesday night. “We’re giving up goals that they don’t have to work to score and it’s killing us.”
Easy goals in the same old ways, by letting turnovers and odd-man rushes continue to plague the Caps.
“we’ve been preaching for the last … a long time,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “The last couple games it has been the difference is those turnovers at those blue lines.”
One of the issues might be players trying to do too much. Jay Beagle admitted to that, saying he was pressing a little too hard and making mistakes as a result.
It’s a risk-reward game for the Caps, who have to adjust their style and forecheck based on the score and situation.
“It’s like reading the defense for a quarterback: Are they zone or are they man to man? What are they doing? If they’re standing up at the blue line and they got three guys back and we only have three guys, you’ve got to make a great play to try to separate and get in on a scoring chance,” coach Dale Hunter said. “That’s why the chip and chase comes all the time. You chip it into the area, the other guy supports. Once [the Hurricanes] got the lead there in the third period, they had everybody back. You see that we chipped and we chased and we had some scoring chances from it.”
But Hunter points out that it’s a “game of mistakes,” so turnovers are going to happen. Players know they can’t keep giving it away just inside the offensive zone because it paves the way for an odd-man rush.
Once an opposing team starts going up ice, it’s on everyone to try to catch up. Or not fall behind in the first place.
“You’ve just got to have guys back and close the gaps between your defense and forwards and limit the space as much as possible,” right wing Joel Ward said.
It’s a mindset all over the ice, though, to make sure goalies aren’t hung out to dry. That starts with puck possession and knowing what to do.
“You’ve got to know in your mind that if you see the D-man standing up, then it’s going to be a chip. But If you have numbers and maybe they’re sitting back a little bit, maybe you can carry it and gain that line and maybe you do have an odd-man rush,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said. “It’s taking a peek when you get the puck, and if you have nothing, then making sure that you get it deep.”