The Capitals are tied with the leafs 1-1 in the first round of the playoffs. After dropping a 4-3 double-overtime decision on Saturday night, the Capitals are looking for answers as the Leafs have shown the ability to compete well in the series.
Barry Trotz will look to adjust for the Capitals to take back control of the series. Where should the Capitals improve their game to take back control of the series? Where have the Capitals struggled against the Maple Leafs?
Let’s look at some adjustments the Capitals need to make:
The Capitals have surrendered the puck too many times to the Maple Leafs. The Capitals have 45 giveaways in just 2 games, while the Maple Leafs have 27. The Capitals have been way too loose in the defensive zone and have struggled in their transition game.
The Maple Leafs young quick forwards thrive off transition plays and turnovers. When the Capitals turn the puck over in their own zone, this leads to longer shifts in their zone. The Capitals do not need to chase the Maple Leafs in the defensive zone.
In Game 2, the only Capitals center that was over 50% in the faceoff dot was Nicklas Backstrom. The Capitals were only 39% effective in the faceoff dot in Game 2, which is completely unacceptable.
The Capitals must control the faceoff dot to first gain possession of the puck. If they do not gain possession of the puck, they will likely spend more time in their defensive zone.
CHANGE UP THE PASSIVE PLAYS
Too many times, we have seen the Capitals surrender the open plays. There have been too many instances where the Capitals have not shot the puck. The Capitals tend to make the cute play or the play that they hope will end up on Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays.
In the playoffs, there are limited top plays. Every goal scored in the playoffs is a goal that is earned. The Capitals must adjust their game plan and attack the Maple Leafs net. Frederik Andersen can be leaky at times, which is why the Capitals need to throw as many pucks at the Leafs net as they can.
If there is an open shot in the slot, the Capitals need to throw the puck at the net. Any shot on net in the playoffs is a good shot on net. In addition to throwing pucks at the net, the Capitals must throw their bodies at the net, too. The Capitals must find ways to get traffic in front of Frederik Andersen.
LIMIT THE PENALTIES
The Capitals need to stay composed in front of a raucous Air Canada Centre crowd in Toronto. An easy way to stay composed is to limit the number of penalties. The Capitals do not need to take any silly, retaliatory penalties against the Leafs in these games in Toronto. They do not need to give the Leafs any more chances with the man advantage.
KILL THE CROWD EARLY
In Games 3 and 4, it is important for the Capitals to try and kill the Toronto crowd early. The Capitals let the Maple Leafs score first in Games 1 and 2. This is not a good recipe for success in the NHL. The Capitals do not need to fall behind early. The Capitals need to fly out of the gates early, and get some early tallies against the young, inexperienced Maple Leafs. With early strikes, the veteran Capitals should be able to ride the wave of momentum as the series goes on.
By: George Foussekis