The Boston Bruins are fast, but one thing the Washington Capitals realized quickly against the New York Rangers is just how aggressively they come on the forecheck.
Defensemen hardly have a second to think before a forward is on them.
“I don’t really know if you can solve it,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Sometimes you have to maybe cheat a little bit to get back or find a different way to get to that puck first because they come with so much speed and they always finish that first check that you’re going to get hit no matter what. … There’s not a whole lot you can do.”
Rangers forward Mike Rupp, no stranger to forechecking, said, “We expect this series to be a war and take some time.” That means a lot of punishment for the Caps’ defense to absorb. Alzner and Mike Green each were on the wrong end of big hits early in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The key, according to Alzner, is defensemen keeping their heads up and reacting quickly.
“I think there were a few times where we’ve been used to having a little bit more time to make a play and you hold on to the puck for a second longer and you’re getting hit,” he said. “We’re holding on to it too long and try to make a play that hasn’t really been there yet.”
Not only do the Caps’ forwards want to hold up the Rangers more than they have been, but also do the same thing to New York’s defense: throw the puck in and make them turn around to get it.
“If you do that enough times during the course of a game and the course of a series, you’re just going to get tired of it and frustrated and maybe there’s one time when you cheat a little bit and we capitalize on it,” forward Brooks Laich said. “You don’t know when it’s going to be, but you just hope that every finished check is an investment in the series and at some point it will pay off.”
Talking ice time
Alex Ovechkin’s playoff career-low ice time of 13:36 in Game 2 was a subject around hockey earlier in the week, but teammates bristle at the discussion.
“You guys are making a story about nothing. There’s a lot of guys in there that are playing real well that maybe should be earning something,” Laich said, pointing to Alzner and forward Jay Beagle. “There’s a lot of guys playing tremendous hockey that are deserving of the minutes they get.”
Alzner and other Caps didn’t like it garnering so much attention on NHL Network and elsewhere.
“Talking to some of the guys inside there, we all keep saying the same thing,” the defenseman said. “It’s too bad that that’s the topic of conversation after we just won a big game.”
Not full of hot air
The ice already was bad in Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden, but those in charge of such things at Verizon Center made a key decision to try to improve conditions for Games 3 and 4. They brought in dehumidifiers with giant blue tubes to pump hot air away from the rink.
“We decided because the weather’s been so wacky this year where we go from 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity to 40 degrees and threats of frost, that we would be proactive and go ahead and get them for this round,” arena senior vice president and general manager Dave Touhey said. “It gives us one more tool to be able to control the climate.”
Touhey said other NHL teams in warmer climes have dehumidifiers full-time and that the league requires them at a certain humidity level. The idea is to keep humidity under 50 percent.