The Washington Capitals have been strong on defense for several years now. Going back to the Trotz era and to the 2018 Stanley Cup parade, the strength of the Capitals lineup has come through their blueline.
With a new season comes new players. The Capitals look a little bit different now on the blueline than they did back in 2018 when they won the Stanley Cup.
Gone from 2018 are players like Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen who were defensive mainstays for the Capitals for many years. Over the last couple of seasons, the Capitals have added Nick Jensen, Radko Gudas, and Jonas Siegenthaler to their blueline mix.
IS THE BLUELINE BETTER THIS YEAR THAN IN RECENT YEARS?
The main question one wonders today: have the Capitals improved their blueline? Is the blueline personnel better than it was in 2018?
Fans can debate players, but the coaching is a little different now respectively. The Capitals are playing a little bit of a different game under Todd Reirden than they did with Barry Trotz.
With Reirden’s style, the Capitals are playing with more speed and tempo and they are pushing the puck up the ice quicker. Under Trotz, the Capitals played more of a cycle game and a grind game, which was still effective.
One of the biggest things that does not get talked about a lot is a team’s chemistry. Any good hockey club must have good cohesion at any position. If a club does not have good chemistry and cohesion between its players, things can crumble very quickly.
Chemistry on the blueline is extremely important. Any good blueline group usually has good hockey IQ, and good communication skills. Defensemen must always talk and communicate on the ice to be effective players.
Through the Capitals first 25 games, they have had mixed results from the blueline. While John Carlson has been netting points on a nightly basis, other Capitals blueliners have struggled with consistency.
Nick Jensen and Dmitry Orlov have struggled with their on-ice play in the first quarter of the season. Fans have seen their struggles come in the form of bad clears in the defensive zone, or bad turnovers that lead to opposition goals.
Both players mentioned have shown the ability to spark some offense for the Capitals at key moments too. Every player goes through good and bad moments in their career, and no player is perfect.
Any player that struggles must find it within themselves to try and get better everyday. That can include things like watching more film, or spending extra time on the ice to refine their skills.
The Capitals have world class players, and the defense is still a strength. If the Capitals can get consistent play from all the defensemen as they head into the new year, the Capitals will be tough to beat when spring hits. Good defensive play can propel clubs on longer playoff runs into the spring.
By: George Foussekis