It was an ugly first twenty minutes for the Capitals on Monday afternoon against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche recorded four goals in the first 10 minutes of the game before anyone could blink. The Capitals simply were not ready for the onslaught that came at them against the Avalanche.
WHAT DID THE AVALANCHE DO SO WELL?
Early in the game, the Avalanche defensemen did a nice job of moving the puck and making the Capitals chase. The Avalanche successfully pushed the puck up the ice with speed, and their transition game was very quick.
THE CAPITALS DEFENSE WAS OUT OF ALIGNMENT
On the first Avalanche goal, the Capitals defense was nowhere to be found. Nick Jensen was caught chasing in the corner, and Tyler Lewington was late arriving to the play in front of the net. Alex Ovechkin was left all alone in front, but he did not put a body on Andre Burakovsky, who helped set a screen against Braden Holtby.
On the second Avalanche goal, the Capitals defense was caught up the ice, and got burned by the Avalanche top line. John Carlson was caught out of position chasing the puck, which left Jonas Siegenthaler all alone to defend an odd-man rush in front of the net. The Avalanche were able to get a clean shot off in front of the net, as Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov made the Capitals pay.
On the third Avalanche goal, the Capitals defense lost outside gap control, which gave Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri an open lane to the net. Kadri got a clean uncontested shot off at the Capitals net.
On the fourth Avalanche goal, the Capitals penalty killers were all caught flat-footed. The Capitals had a hard time clearing the puck on the penalty kill, and the Capitals were caught bunched up in the middle of the defensive zone. Because of the bunching up by the Capitals, Mikko Rantanen had a pretty easy look at the Capitals net.
THE CAPITALS NEED IMPROVED GAP CONTROL AND POSITIONING
The Capitals have played too loose in the defensive zone in recent games. They are giving the opposition too much space and open ice, and they are not forcing them off the pucks quick enough.
The forwards and defensemen must play their positions on the ice tightly. They cannot afford to bunch up and be too close together. This is especially important on the penalty kill, where lanes are more open and there is more open ice. If the Capitals continue to play too bunched together, they will leave too much open ice and will lose proper gap assignments.
By: George Foussekis