Friday, March 4, 2011

Defense wins Championships for the Caps?

As the NHL regular season winds down, this year's Capitals team is trying to reverse its postseason fortunes with a new approach. In the past three seasons, Washington’s run and gun style of play has been entertaining, but come playoff time has been lacking the experience and tough defense to advance. Even without drastic roster or coaching changes, there seem to be more and more 1-0 defensive struggle games this season. The stats this year surprisingly show that Boudreau is actually implementing this philosophy.

· In 2008, the Caps were 8th in the league in goals per game, then third and first last year. This year, they have fallen to 22nd at 2.63.

· On the other hand, Washington’s goals against were 18th, 19th, and 16th. Now at 2.45 goals per game, their re-dedicated defense ranks 7th in the league.

· Mirroring these stats, the Capitals went from 6th, 2nd, and 3rd in shots to 12th now, and 9th, 13th, and 18th in shots against to back to 9th again.

· Even the goaltending has improved. With two relative rookies in the net this year, the Caps rank 8th in the league at .916 save %, a far cry from the days of Jose “Three or More” and other veterans at 14th, 21st, and 24th the past three seasons.

· Meanwhile the special teams have drastically changed as well. Going from 25th in the league in penalty killing last year to 5th place (85.3%) this year is commendable. However, the Caps are only 25th (16.1%) in power play percentage this season, after leading the NHL last year, which is probably not what Boudreau had in mind.

How do these stats reflect in wins? Well, the past three seasons they were 13th, 4th, and 1st in standings and were out of the playoffs in the 1st, 2nd, and 1st round. This season the Capitals are only 8th in the standings, and are probably not going to win their division unlike the previous three years. As for the playoffs this year …

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