Following the Capitals’ loss to the Rangers last week, one of the improvements the team looked to make was for the defensemen to be a little more assertive in their own zone, particularly around the net.
The results were evident in the next game, in Washington’s 4-1 win over Columbus, as the defensemen were able to minimize second-chance opportunities and make their opponents hesitate even just an extra moment to get set up in front of the crease.
“It was addressed that we need to be a little more aggressive and a lot of us are offensive minded, especially the right-handed defensemen,” Mike Green said. “A lot of times you get focused on poking the puck and having a good stick so much that you forget, especially with the rule changes, you forget to cross check or give these little bumps that are key to the game.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby praised his teammates’ effort for a “meaner” presence in front of the net and said that their work made his job that much easier as he finished a 37-save outing.
The Capitals aren’t looking for an abundance of body checks, but rather strong positioning and making sure that opponents who do venture in front of the crease don’t have an easy stay there. While they need to avoid unnecessary penalties, the defensemen don’t want opposing players to take up residence in front of Holtby for screens or waiting for the perfect redirection opportunity.
“Everything happens so quick these days, guys’ hand-eye coordination is incredible, and if you don’t move them or at least let them know that you’re there they feel they can stand there and they’ll be able to bat it out of the air,” Green said. “I think that with those little pushes and whatnot Holts can see the puck for maybe a second and really, that’s all he needs is a split second to react. I think that’s what caused a lot of the clearness in front of the net are the little bumps and pushes.”
>> In other news, former Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik has called it a career after 20 years in the NHL. Hamrlik’s stop in Washington was a brief one as he appeared in only 70 of his total 1,395 regular season games here in the final two seasons of his career.
Hamrlik released a statement through the NHLPA thanking all those who helped him over the course of his lengthy NHL career. Here’s an excerpt.
“After much thought and consideration I have decided to end my hockey career as of today. As a kid growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, I never imagined that I would one day have the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League. It has been a great honor, and a privilege, to spend 20 seasons playing in the greatest hockey league in the world. I will always cherish the wonderful memories I have of my time spent in North America while playing the game I love, making sacrifices and pursuing my hockey dreams.
Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who have helped me along the way, and without whom I would not have been able to enjoy playing. For these relationships and everyone’s support, I am very grateful.”