Critics say Dale Hunters passive 1-2-2 forechecking system is too restrictive for talented players like Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.
They say it takes away the Capitals offensive creativity and dulls the game.
Hunter doesnt buy it and believes the sooner his players embrace his system the quicker theyll climb up the Eastern Conference standings.
A lot of teams play it, Hunter said. You cut down on the odd-man rushes. Youre not giving up 2-on-1s and breakaways. Basically, you have to defend more in your own end.
So, what is a 1-2-2 and how does it work?
The Capitals fall back into a 1-2-2 formation one forward at the offensive blue line, two forwards in the neutral zone and two defensemen on the defensive blue line whenever their opponents set up behind their own net for a breakout.
You only play it if youre on a line change or you lose the draw, Hunter said. Most times you want your team to be on the forecheck. If you dump it, youre not playing a 1-2-2. Youre playing a 2-1-2 where guys are going.
The 1-2-2 breaks down when players stray from their positions, which is what happened Tuesday night in the Capitals 5-1 loss to the Flyers. On the Flyers first goal, a knuckler by Scott Hartnell, the Caps were in the midst of a line change and Hartnell was allowed to hustle down the left wing.
What people dont see are the mistakes in the neutral zone that allow Hartnell to get in to get that shot, Brooks Laich said. We put Tomas (Vokoun) in a position where he shouldnt have needed to make a save.
Troy Brouwer said the number one ingredient in making any system work is discipline and it is especially important in the 1-2-2.
You have to be in the right spot at the right time, he said. When you let your guy go and let him get a step on you, its really tough to recover.
It takes practice and trust. You have to keep drilling it into guys. But it doesnt just fall on the coach; it falls on the players as well. Youve got to make sure the guys on your line are doing what theyre supposed to be doing.
Like any system, its a much easier sell when teams are winning. But when it falls apart the way it did Tuesday night, it requires a harder sell, especially to players like Ovechkin and Semin, who were a combined minus-5 against the Flyers.
You can be creative in the offensive zone, but not when youre in the neutral zone or D zone, Brouwer said. Thats when you get in trouble and thats why weve been getting scored on. Dale said he wont stifle our offensive creativity, as long as we do it in the right areas of the ice.
So the next time you see the Capitals fall back into a prevent defense, take the advice of Hunter and be patient.
Every hockey player wants to go, Hunter said. But if you jump off the bench and you flush them out it doesnt make sense. Youre putting yourself down a man.