- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Braden Holtby loves it when teammates block shots, going out of his way to show his appreciation. But the Washington Capitals’ rookie goaltender knows what can go wrong when players don’t get in front of pucks.

It happened on the New York Rangers‘ overtime goal in Game 5 Monday night, when forward Brooks Laich tried to block defenseman Marc Staal’s shot and instead it tipped off his stick and over Holtby’s left shoulder.

“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.”

That’s a drawback of coach Dale Hunter’s system, which relies on shot-blocking. But one flukey bounce against the Rangers won’t change the philosophy that got the Caps this far.


“You always got to block shots. [Laich’s] been playing the game for a long time, and even the tying goal, we had a piece of that, too,” Hunter said. “Sometimes you get a piece of it, it goes out or it goes in the corner. That’s the chances you take.”

Even surrendering 38 shots on net, the Capitals blocked 25 shots in Monday’s 3-2 loss. Had it not been for that, they might not have been in a position to win before a late collapse.

“I think you can’t stop trying to block shots and all that just because there’s a risk it might go in,” forward Marcus Johansson said. “I think the risk it goes in is bigger if you don’t block it.”

Ovechkin held shotless

Alex Ovechkin played more than 19 minutes in Game 5, so ice time wasn’t an issue, but the captain still didn’t manage a shot on goal. It’s just the second time that has happened in his playoff career and the first time since Game 1 against Montreal in 2010.

Ovechkin registered only two attempts (one blocked, one missed).

“You know, just get more pucks to the net; he tried a few that got blocked. They’re doing a good job blocking, too, so he’s just got to keep trying to get pucks to the net,” Hunter said. “If you keep attempting shots, good things will happen.”

Asked what offensive players need to do when defenses clamp down, center Nicklas Backstrom pointed to work ethic.

“Just got to try and work harder, and you’ve just got to find a way to get pucks to the net, I think, and maybe go in front of the net and battle harder,” he said.

Ovechkin led in the NHL in shots each of his first six seasons and tied for fifth this year.

Faceoff failures

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