Of the 26 even-strength goals the Capitals have scored this season, eight have started with a shot from the point by a defenseman. The credit goes to the blueliners able to successfully get their shots through to the net, the forwards positioned in front of the net to often deflect the puck and the coaching staff for emphasizing both elements.
“It’s something that we wanted to add to our game,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “A lot of teams are collapsing to the front of the net, so you’ve got to spread people out. You go east-west, you go north, back to the blue line, back to the dirty paint. So, we have to force ourselves in there a little bit, and I think we’ve done a better job of that, especially our low forward. Rather than standing in the corner for an easy puck, we’re going to the front.”
While Washington’s blue line has been active in helping setup goals, Alzner is the only Capitals defenseman who has scored this season, his wrist shot from the point beating Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck last week. The seven other goals the Capitals have scored off point shots have been with a forward making contact with the puck in front, either punching in a rebound or deflecting it.
With teams better at shot-blocking, it’s a skill to get shots through from the blue line. Techniques to remedy that involve scouting each team’s defensive zone coverage, creating a shot lane through the movement of a defenseman’s feet and using deception with a fake shot.
“I think that’s just how hard it is to score in this league,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “For us to get our shots through, that’s huge. Some of the pucks aren’t going some of the way of some of our guys, but at least we’re getting to the next level and that’s the biggest thing. Things are going to start working out, you know?”
Orpik said traffic in front has helped shots from the point make it past those layers of shot-blockers, calling the encouraging trend of scoring that way “a team effort” to this point in the season.
“It’s pretty tough to score from the point these days with a straight shot,” Orpik said. “… I think it’s something you’ve got to keep harping on. It’s probably a habit you’ve got to develop over the course of a year.”
Said Trotz: “You’ve got to be near the net to have success, and the defense, we always harp that there’s no sense shooting it if there’s no one there. So, they’re more willing to shoot it when there are people there.”