With the regular season less than two weeks away, the Washington Capitals began to concentrate more heavily on their defensive system and power play yesterday. Coach Ron Wilson said he will be trying to find a more consistent power play this season and has made some changes to the way the team will forecheck and defend.
Wilson adopted one of the hallmarks of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings late last season and plans to use it early this season. The system, called the left-wing lock, is predicated on keeping one forward, usually the left wing, in a defensive position. When the Capitals have the puck two forwards will play aggressively near the other team's net, while the other will remain "high" in the zone, ready to help the defensemen out.
With scoring in the NHL nearing all-time lows, and the Capitals looking for offense, Washington may not be able to gamble much. Wilson said he wants the team to be responsible defensively with the puck and forecheck aggressively to create scoring chances without putting the team in danger.
"I think this year, because of our alleged inability to score, you'll see us trapping more in the beginning just to find a comfort level for everybody," Wilson said. "We've got a left-wing lock that guys are comfortable with from the end of last year. We'll also have a two-man forecheck we employed a lot last year to apply pressure. That's how we ended up out-shooting our opponents a lot more than we had in the past."
Not Quite Up to Par
Pro golfer Mike Weir, a buddy of Capitals center Adam Oates, skated with the team yesterday. Weir, who played some junior hockey in Canada, held up pretty well, though he was bounced around by some of the defensemen.
"He's a pretty good skater, but we're going to have to send him down to the minors," Wilson joked after practice. "We told him he's not committed enough to hockey. I think he felt it was going to be more of a country-club atmosphere around here."
Weir won the Air Canada Championship, his first PGA Tour title, earlier this month.
Draftees Continue Workout
The Capitals have decided to keep their top two picks from June's draft--Kris Beech and Michal Sivek--around for at least one more exhibition game before returning them to their junior clubs. Beginning Wednesday night in Fayetteville, N.C., the team will play four games in seven nights. Beech might skate on a line with Peter Bondra and Oates in a game, Wilson said. . . . Depending on the quality of players available, the Capitals may add a player in the Sept. 27 waiver draft. Each team can protect 18 skaters and two goalies (many young players are exempt), and selection of players begins with the team that finished with the worst record in the league last season. Generally, only a handful of players change teams. The draft is designed to help less successful teams rebuild a bit. Washington is not in danger of losing any players it is eager to retain.