“The one thing that they did well, to their credit, is I thought they did a lot of shot blocking, more than I’ve seen them do in the past,” Bruins Coach Claude Julien said. “But that’s playoff hockey, right? You see guys get out of their comfort zone and do things that they don’t always do during the regular season, and I thought they did a great job of that. ”
Washington blocked 22 shots Thursday night, and while part of that number may have been attributed to the eight minutes of shorthanded time, there was a diligent effort by players to put themselves in the way of pucks. Considering that Boston fired 30 shots that did reach the net, who knows how many shots Braden Holtby might have faced in his Stanley Cup playoff debut.
“We wanted to help him out,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We didn’t want him to have to face a ton of shots his first game, and high-quality shots and ones through screens. Anything we could do to help him was something that we were talking about: not only block shots but try to move guys out.”
While the Capitals know they spent too much time trapped in their own zone for various stretches of Game 1, they were successful at keeping the bulk of Boston’s chances to the outside from the zone by stepping into shooting lanes, and being willing to take the punishment of doing so.
As the contest continued on, while Washington didn’t really change its approach to blocking shots the Bruins’ wariness of seeing their shot thwarted resulted in them over-thinking shot selection.
“I think we’ve got to do a little bit better job of changing lanes,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “Getting pucks through because we had good looks we just didn’t get it to the net. We had guys there but again, we have to do a better job moving on the blueline and looking for those lanes.”
While a good thing on one hand, a high number of blocked shots indicates that the Capitals were spending too much time stuck in their own end. Excessive time on the penalty kill will do that, but even at five-on-five Washington was hemmed in a little too much.
Ideally, the Capitals want to block shots and use it to send a rush in the opposite direction. To do that, though, they need to win battles for the puck.
The Bruins “battle very hard for loose pucks in the zone,” said Caps forward Troy Brouwer, who finished with four blocks in Game 1. “We have to make sure when we have those loose pucks in the zone that we’re making plays and get out clean and get out on offense. They work real hard and we’ve got to make sure that we’re matching that and getting to those loose pucks.”
Expect to see the Capitals continue to block shots as this series continues, because if there’s one thing they want Boston to experience, it’s the frustration of not getting clean shots off.
“It’s a pain. It’s a big-time pain,” Alzner said. “There’s very few things that are worse than that is when you have a Grade-A chance and sometime comes out of nowhere and blocks it, or gets a stick in there or anything like that. We know what that’s like.”
More on the Capitals:
— Caps’ lines the same from Game 1
— Boston searches for more offense
— Krejci says he’s fine for Game 2
— The hit heard’round the NHL
— Game 1: Capitals fall to Bruins in OT
— Ovechkin needs to focus on offense
— Nothing but praise for Braden Holtby
— Photos: Scenes from Game 1 at TD Garden
— First-round NHL playoff schedule
— Interactive: Capitals vs. Bruins shot tracker.