Yesterday I participated in a round table with Pat Holden from the Washington Capitals blog, BrooksLaichyear.
Pat offered some great insight into what the Rangers should expect from the Capitals in their second round match-up.
To view my answers to Pat’s questions, visit his blog, BrooksLaichyear, by clicking here.
KD: Dale Hunter has gotten the team to buy into playing a defense oriented game. What was he able to do that Boudreau wasn’t?
PH: Boudreau tried to take this team from being an offensive juggernaut to being more of a defensive-minded team. He changed his coaching style too, going from a player-friendly approach to being more of a disciplinarian. Changing so much about what he naturally is probably made it difficult for some players to take Boudreau seriously. So, changing the voice likely helped with the credibility of the message.
KD: Alex Ovechkin has been averaging less ice time than usual, even being sat late in games, what’s up with that?
PH: Dale Hunter will tell you it’s because he’s matching lines. My suspicion is that, simply put, Ovechkin can be a defensive liability. I do, however, think the whole issue was blown out of proportion, which is going to happen in the playoffs and in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. Ovechkin still ended up third amongst Caps forwards in average TOI against Boston, behind only Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich, and some of that difference can be attributed to the fact that Ovechkin doesn’t kill penalties. To your point though, there were times when I was left scratching my head about his ice time. For example, why in the world was he 6th amongst Caps forward in ice time in Game 7? If there is a good explanation for that, I’d like to hear it.
KD: Is Holtby the real deal or just a flash in the pan like Varlamov and Neuvirth?
PH: I’m not sure that either of the latter two can be considered flashes in the pan, but Holtby is obviously the one out of those three making the headlines right now, and rightfully so. He’s been great at times but, most importantly, he was never a liability against Boston. I think it’s too early too look into the future for Holtby. That being said, I am comfortable with him being the Caps goalie in these playoffs.
KD: Which Capitals player is no one talking about that could have a major impact on this series?
PH: Karl Alzner. It won’t be flashy and it probably won’t be on the scoresheet, but the guy is essential to the Caps success. The fact that Alzner has developed into such a reliable and steadying member of the Caps defense shouldn’t surprise anyone who is familiar with his background. Alzner was the Caps first round pick, and 5th overall, in the 2007 draft. He was the Captain of Team Canada when they won the World Junior Championship in 2008. Alzner was named the WHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year for the 2007-08 season. In the first round against Boston, he led the Caps in average TOI at 24:55 per game. You can count on seeing a lot of Alzner and his partner John Carlson when Marian Gaborik is on the ice.
KD: What do the Capitals have to do to defeat the Rangers?
PH: Score more goals than them in 4 out of the 7 games. In all seriousness, a lot of the same things they did right against Boston. Block shots, kill penalties, get a timely save etc. The power play needs to be better in the second round, especially considering that the Caps penalty kill is likely to cool off from 91.3% in the first round. While Ovechkin’s ice time has made a lot of headlines around the league, I know I’m not the only Caps fan more perplexed by the lack of ice time for Mike Green and Alex Semin on the power play.