Capitals adjusting to penalty kill tweaks
(Photo by Brendan Sheridan)
The Capitals won’t have much time to brood over losses or wins this season. With a tight schedule and multiple back-to-back games, they’ll have to fix problems and learn quickly from mistakes without dwelling too much on failures or resting on successes.
In discussions with Capitals players and coaching staff surrounding Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting, one thing you’ll find in common is the acknowledgement that they need to do a better job of preventing teams from screening their goalie, and probably more practice with their penalty killing unit, despite getting a workout against the Lightning.
But Oates isn’t blaming Holtby for the loss. Everyone is taking responsibility. “We're a group here,” he said.
Holtby is moving past the loss, too. He knows there were moments that could have gone better, namely, the first and fifth goals scored that night. “I don’t know if they would have went in still but I felt my positioning could have been better and reading the play could have been better, but as a goal, it was one of those nights the puck went in,” said Holtby
Something Tampa Bay did well against the Capitals was getting bodies in front of the net, and most importantly, pucks in the net, especially on the power play. Three of Tampa Bay’s six goals were scored on the power play. Allowing a team to find open shooting lanes and make shots while putting bodies in front of the goaltender is not a recipe for success no matter your opponent.
“That was basically the thing all night,” said Holtby. “…just the traffic was the difference.”
“Some of those goals were perfect shots with good screens and there’s not a whole lot you can do, but we gotta do a better job of blocking guys out,” said defenseman Karl Alzner.
“I think it came from breakdowns in other areas that [we] let a guy stand in front where if we were doing our job, that guy won't be there. I think we made mistakes prior to the actual play and sometimes you make a mistake that you can't recover from,“ said Oates.
Alzner admits most of the problems on the penalty kill were caused by the tweaks that head coach Adam Oates has made to the penalty-killing units and the resultant overthinking that comes with trying to learn a new system without the benefit of a lot of practice. They had six days with Oates before kicking off the season in Tampa Bay Saturday night.
“There’s a little bit of running around, guys trying to figure out what position they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to cross and switch and fill lanes, “ said Alzner. “It was just way overthinking it.”
Alnzer thinks simplicity is more effective in Oates’s system. “I think we can get a lot more done without having to move as much,” he said.
What are some of the changes that Oates has made to the penalty kill?
“I think it’s mainly the forwards switching, taking away the big, down-the-middle one-timers that you see some teams trying to set up,” said Alzner.” Just making sure their big shooters don’t ever get the puck, pretty much, and we gotta play good two-on-ones.”
“It’s little things, but they are different, and I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” he said. “It’s just things that’ll come easier after we have a couple of practices and couple of games.”
Oates said it all comes down making the right choices during a game. “Mistakes happen all over the ice in every game, pro and con. It’s how you handle them, what's the next sequence after a mistake. Sometimes we just made them and we didn't recover.”