2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Capitals’ system built to last

Adam Oates’ team has no reason to change anything from regular season

Few expected the drastic difference in the 2011-12 Washington Capitals from game 82 of the regular season to Game 1 of the playoffs against the Boston Bruins. Dale Hunter’s team featured a different brand of intensity, and even if the structure of shot-blocking and defensive hockey was the same, it looked like the Caps flipped a switch when it mattered.

Fast forward to Game 1 against the New York Rangers on Thursday night, and the Caps on the ice at Verizon Center looked like the same team that finished the season 10-1-1. It was evidence of the expected: that coach Adam Oates‘ system isn’t any different in the playoffs than it was during the 48-game regular season.

“There’s no need to change anything or do anything different,” defenseman Mike Green said. “It’s playoffs; if there’s a chance to block a shot you do it, but other than that we stick to the same thing we’ve been doing all season.”

Or at least for the past two months since Oates‘ tactics started developing consistent results, on the ice and in the standings. While Washington went 6-4-2 to finish the regular season a year ago, this group had the confidence of knowing playing this way worked.

“The coaching staff’s done a good job of implementing a system and sticking to it,” defenseman Steve Oleksy said. “You take the regular season to learn it, to perfect it and it should just carry over to playoffs. Playoffs isn’t the time to change major things.”

Philosophically, the Caps didn’t change major things under Hunter once the playoffs began, Oates argued. Instead, he pointed to goaltender Braden Holtby as the “big difference.”

But it was clear they played on another level. Since winning was the only option to make the playoffs this season, the Caps are accustomed to desperation and have been at peak performance for a while now.

“I think in the playoffs we don’t try to make mistakes,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “If we don’t have a play, we just make a simple and take another chance. But right now if we have a chance to make a play, we use it and we’re gonna make a play. Of course the system is different, but if we do right thing it’s working.”

The confidence built from seeing it work is an added advantage. But Oates wouldn’t have his team suddenly playing a different way even if that weren’t the case.

“I don’t think any team changes their structure now. No way,” he said. “You work all year long to do something. You don’t change it. What you change is just the decisions guys make or where you put the puck. Some of your reads. When a guy makes a bad read or makes a mistake you try to coach him through it for the next time. But the structure doesn’t change.”

Game 1 wasn’t the quintessential Caps victory sparked by neutral zone turnovers and Ovechkin scoring with a blast on the power play.

But it didn’t have to be; the idea is instead controlling the pace of games.

“We’re one game in right now, but I think that it forces them to play a game that they don’t want to play,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “This is a comfortable system now. We’ve been under it for quite a few months and we’re getting the hang of it and we’re starting to see the positives that come with playing it.”

Hendricks singled out eliminating odd-man rushes as one key. The Caps’ aim is to take away the Rangers‘ speed and keep them from scoring off the rush.

“When you take that away, you start scrambling a little,” he said. “Your routes start to change. Forwards are in the positions the defense aren’t used to seeing. They’re trying to move around, they’re trying to get more open and it just causes more chaos on their end.”

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) looks to pass in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 114-93. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Wizards’ Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr. hoping for big splash on small stage

  • Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is surrounded by fans that rushed the field and security as he is escorted off the field following their 45-38 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    SNYDER: RG3 worth his weight in bronze to Baylor

  • Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado (13), celebrates his two-run homer with Adam Jones left, with Nick Markakis, at right, during the 11th inning of an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. The Orioles won 8-2, in 11 innings. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Accidental rivalry: Nats-Orioles doesn’t have much edge

  • Celebrities In The News
  • (Image from DeAngelo Williams' Facebook post)

    NFL star likely fooled by Marine impostor who accepted first-class plane ticket

  • ** FILE ** In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo actor George Clooney attends the premiere of "Gravity" at the AMC Lincoln Square Theaters, in New York. George Clooney has chastised a British newspaper over an article claiming his fiancee's mother disapproves of the impending marriage for religious reasons. Clooney said that the claims about his future mother-in-law Baria Alamuddin were untrue and irresponsible. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

    Website apologizes for Clooney mother-in-law story

  • Kim Kardashian arrives at the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment 2014 Upfront at the Javits Center on Thursday, May 15, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

    Kim Kardashian visits Jersey shore