Several Capitals defensemen have talked about how the coaching staff is encouraging any and all blue liners to learn how to make the right decision about jumping up in the play so they can take opportunities when they see them.
It’s a shift from how the team played under Dale Hunter, who tried to minimize risk, and Bruce Boudreau, who told only a few blueliners to pinch. Assistant coach Calle Johansson, a former offensive defenseman himself, explained why they want to get everyone involved. (For more on this, check out my story from Wednesday’s paper.)
“Why not? I know what you’re thinking: [Jeff] Schultz is a defensive defenseman, [John] Erskine,” Johansson explained. “Obviously we all know that [Mike] Green is one of the best in the league, and [John] Carlson is great and all that stuff but who said if there’s a chance, Schultz couldn’t join the rush? We need four guys on the attack and he’s as important as anybody else. He just gotta believe it himself and that’s our job: to make him believe it.”
For stay-at-home defensemen, it’s a new request and freedom they haven’t always been afforded.
“I noticed that right away when I talked to them. They looked kind of surprised,” Johansson said. “It’s our job to tell them to and if they screw up, who cares. Mike Green screws up when he joins the rush too, you can’t be afraid of it. You’ve got to let them make a mistake and keep playing.”
Johansson said he’s not concerned about players who might not have a natural instinct to join the rush over thinking a play or hesitating. He knows they’ll need some time to adjust but he believes they’ll be able to make the transition.
“We can all change. These guys are not old,” Johansson said. “They’ve been around for a lot of years, but they’re not old. So you can change a little bit, sure.”