Many of the Capitals’ problems during the losing streak, and the over-arching slump, have stemmed from deteriorating defensive-zone coverage. So on Sunday, Coach Bruce Boudreau set about working to rein in the defense with system work.
“We were getting so loose both in the neutral zone and the defensive zone that we had to pull and tighten it all together,” Boudreau said. “Sometimes when you’re playing every second day you don’t get a chance to practice and very slowly it just disappears. What was once tight and compact is quickly, without practicing it, gets broken. We thought it was a little broken in a couple of the goals last night so we had to get back to practicing.”
After the loss to the Maple Leafs Saturday, Brooks Laich was asked what was the difference — personnel aside — between the team that succeeded last year at developing a stable defensive identity to the one that is currently struggling.
His response seemed to underscore some of Washington’s recent problems in its own end.
“Last year we defended really well. We took pride in that,” Laich said. “The team took a lot of pride in playing defensive hockey, and defensive hockey doesn’t mean just in your own zone. It means in the offensive zone, it means moving your feet, it means not taking a bad penalty, maybe taking a hit.
“And the main thing is understand the consequence,” he continued. “Not pinching, not turning the puck over – just realizing that [the need to] play the scoreboard and play the time left on the clock. And you have to understand consequence. I thought we did a good job of that last year, but we’re still learning that this year.”