There is no doubt that teams generally need to play well defensively to win four rounds in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But it’s really a combination of things that usually make the difference. If a team receives superb goaltending, that’s a huge step. If they finish their checks and cut down on turnovers, all the better.
Teams that dig down to win more key face-offs than they lose generally do well at this time of year, as do those who are tough along the boards and in the corners.
I suppose if you play a stifling trap system, or whatever it is that Boucher has concocted in
, you may well advance, too. Tampa Bay
None of this is new information, of course. It’s the same every spring. “Who wants it more” is the old line, but it tends to ring true.
As Wayne Gretzky has said, though, the one thing that beats hard work is talent and hard work.
Yes, at the end of the day, your talent has to score some goals, or all of the above just might be wasted.
I guess I write this because I’m reflecting a bit, as an old-time hockey fan, as the now annual post-mortem continues regarding "what happened to the Washington Capitals".
They were doormats not that many years ago, but of course Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green and a new energetic coach in Boudreau seemed to be the ticket. Suddenly they were an elite team, and just as suddenly, were expected to be serious contenders for the Stanley Cup. In fact, they were expected to win one by now.
But again this spring, they came up short. Well short.
After last year the solution seemed to be that the Caps needed to start playing better defensively, just like the other top contenders. This revelation seemed to come after the somewhat shocking loss in April of 2010 to the suddenly hot Halak and the Habs. They couldn’t score, but the answer seemed to be (or so they thought, at least) to foccus on defense in order to win in the playoffs- just like almost everyone else.
The 2010-’11 regular season was about learning to buy into Boudreau’s new “system”, and winning by playing better defense. The result was a much more boring Caps team, Ovechkin scoring a career low number of goals (31, was it?) and …yet another early playoff exit—four straight, in fact, against the, we all guessed it, defensively responsible Lightning.
What’s the moral of my story?
I don’t really know. Maybe it’s just because I am one of those who really don’t like the trap, or whatever people want to call it. I respect the success of the New Jersey Devils but don’t like some of what they created starting back in the mid-1990s. This mentality of constantly suppressing the other team’s attack is successfu, obviously, but painfully dull to watch.
Yes, at the professional level winning is “everything”, but I loved watching the Capitals when they were the young, mobile, high-scoring, exciting Caps.
The end result this year was the same, despite their dedication to defensive play. And this was a team with heart and soul leaders like Arnott and Knuble, in addition to good young goalies and all that explosive talent.
In baseball, the old saying is that “great pitching shuts down great hitting”. And stifling defensive hockey tends to shut down high-powered stars, too.
I’d just rather the Caps, if they’re going to lose anyway (and hey, I realize that sometimes you just get beat...), go back from now on to play more of a fire-wagon style all year long, and then, as the situation demands, evolve as required in the playoffs.
They couldn’t do any worse.