Caps hope to sustain improved defense

Caps hope to sustain improved defense
October 21, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Caps top 5 plays of the week: 10.21.13

The Capitals have allowed a total of five goals over their last three games, a marked improvement from the 4.20 GA/G they had as a team through their first five outings of the season. Braden Holtby has been better in net as of late, but the play of their blueliners can’t be discounted.

Adam Oates and his coaching staff have urged the Capitals’ defensemen to take a more physical approach in their zone, pulling out the tape to show examples.

“I showed a few plays in the Rangers game, some little habits that had crept into our game. Some little reminders,” Oates said.

The coach, however, would not divulge specifics.

“That’s kind of something between me and the guys in the room, what I think it is, in terms of engagement in the game.”

Mike Green said it was more a message to the two-way defensemen on the team who like to get up the ice.

“It was addressed that we need to be a little more aggressive. A lot of us are offensive-minded, especially the right-handed defensemen,” he said.

“It’s easy for me to say, but it’s easy to go up the ice and try to score goals. The hardest part mentally is to try and focus on positioning and reading and reacting where the puck and play is going to lead to.”

Green explained how their own positioning is important, but also where they try and direct their opponents. Perhaps some more contact could put the opposition out of their comfort zone.

“A lot of times you get focused on poking the puck and having a good stick so much that you forget, especially with the rule changes, you forget to crosscheck or give these little bumps that are key to the game,” Green said. 

“Everything happens so quick these days, guys’ hand-eye coordination is incredible. If you don’t move them or at least let them know that you’re there, they feel they can stand there.”

That contact has helped Holtby as well. Green feels part of the Capitals' downfall on defense earlier this season was blocking the goaltender’s vision. They respect Holtby’s ability to read and react, and it’s important to give him that chance.

“I think that with those little pushes, Holts can see the puck for a second and really that’s all he needs is a split second to react,” Green said. “I think that’s what caused a lot of the clearness in front of the net, the little bumps and pushes.”

The Capitals rank 25th in the NHL with 3.12 goals allowed per game, but a 1.67 GA/G rate over the last three games is a trend in the right direction.

“It takes time,” Green said. “We’re improving every day and the guys are committed to being better defensively. We’ll be fine.”