The Defense: A Positive in a Sea of Negatives Against the Bruins

Photo: RobbCarr/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals downed the Boston Bruins last night 4-3 in overtime after giving up a three goal lead.  Washington didn’t get the W the way they wanted to, but in this competitive Eastern Conference, the Capitals should be happy with two points regardless of how they come. 

After only playing 6:44 in the first period, Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen was hit from behind while off-balance, and went head-first into the boards behind Holtby’s net.  Niskanen, who is normally the Time-On-Ice leader for the Caps each game, left the ice under his own power and went immediately to the locker room for evaluation.

Despite his return being “probable,” Niskanen didn’t appear on the bench for the remainder of the game.  Trotz addressed the media after the game, stating that the decision to keep Niskanen off of the ice was “precautionary,” saying that he’s a valuable piece, that they don’t want to take risks with the blue-liner.

Because of the absence of their TOI leader, the Capitals were forced to play the remainder of their game shuffling five defensemen around.  The remaining five defenders all totaled at least 20 minutes of ice-time in the absence of Matt Niskanen.

After Daniel Winnik scored about six minutes into the second period, the game was all Boston.  Individual mistakes were being made that led to turnovers, the Caps were unable to gain the zone, and when they did they were unable to set up any sort of play-making, and passes weren’t connecting anymore.  In a span of 11:44 game minutes, the Bruins were able to score three goals and tie the game up 3-3, forcing the OT.

However, the Capitals play was not all bad, and one critical part of the game actually saved them from losing the game in regulation: the defense.

In total, the Capitals blocked 21 shots in last night’s game, 16 of which came from the blue-liners.  Karl Alzner, who recorded a season-high TOI of 24:04, made seven blocked shots, and recorded almost three minutes of ice-time short-handed.  Brooks Orpik also stood strong on the defense, making three hits and blocking a total of five shots.  Nate Schmidt, who is occasionally a healthy scratch for Taylor Chorney, recorded a season high TOI of 20:44, and played the fourth defenseman position on the Penalty Kill, totaling nearly two minutes of short-handed ice-time.

The Bruins were able to come back into the game because of a lack of a complacent Capitals team.  Individual mistakes were piling up, passes weren’t completing, the speed of the Capitals’ game had slowed down, and the Caps took some bad penalties.  While there is plenty to improve upon in the future, the defensemen deserve to be recognized for last night’s five-man performance.  Because of the blue-line, the Caps were able to take two points against the Bruins last night.

By Justin Green

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1 Response to The Defense: A Positive in a Sea of Negatives Against the Bruins

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