Blocking shots early and often. That’s what Dale Hunter’s Washington Capitals do. Sacrifice. Pay the price.
But it’s a bit of a risky strategy if players can’t get in front of pucks, as Braden Holtby found out on the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 5 on Monday night. Brooks Laich tried to go down and block Marc Staal’s shot, and it tipped off his stick and in.
“I didn’t see a thing,” Holtby said Monday night. “So, whether I had a lane or not I’d have to look at it on video to see if I could have done a better job seeing around the traffic. That’s what happens when we play a style where we block a lot of shots sometimes those go in. It just happened in overtime.”
It’s certainly a drawback of the system, but one goal won’t make the Caps change anything.
“That usually never happens. It was just a bad bounce. If we would’ve had a good bounce, maybe it would’ve bounced the other way and we would’ve found a way to win the game,” forward Marcus Johansson. “It was a tough play. I think you can’t stop trying to block shots and all that just because there’s a risk it might go in. I think the risk it goes in is bigger if you don’t block it. It’s bad luck.”
Said Hunter: “You always got to block shots. He’s been playing the game for a long time and even the tying goal we had a piece of that too. Sometimes you get a piece of it, it goes out or it goes in the corner that’s the chances you take.”
Specifically on the game-winner, it might’ve had more to do with the screen. Artem Anisimov, John Carlson and Derek Stepan were all in front of Holtby.
“Usually as a defenseman you kind of get the feeling when a shot has a chance to go in. I didn’t even really see the puck, either, because Anisimov was in front of me. Usually I would at least try to lunge out at it something,” Carlson said. “It’s a good shot. I think one of our guys maybe tipped it and it fooled me and Holtby.”
It wouldn’t have happened if Laich or Matt Hendricks were able to get in front of the shot.
“It went off my stick and under Hendricks’ leg and up and over our goalie,” Laich said. “You can’t really write that. That’s something you can’t script. You keep moving forward.”