Can the Capitals dodge the neutral zone trap?

bruce boudreau.jpgGoing into tonight’s Montreal Canadiens-Washington Capitals contest, my basic question has been “How – in the world – do people expect the Canadiens to stick with the Capitals?” Mike Chen of From the Rink might turn that question on its head, though, as he discussed what it takes to break through a neutral zone trap.

Last night was the perfect example of how a less-talented team took away the breakout of a skilled team, and the skilled team failed to adjust except for small bursts here and there. Without any speed upon hitting the blueline, the Sharks arrived at the puck too late to really do any lingering damage.

We’ll most certainly see this style of play again, and it might be sooner rather than later when the Washington Capitals open up their series against the Jacques Martin-led Montreal Canadiens. I’ll be watching that one with a lot of curiosity, not only to see how the defensive-minded Martin tries to shut-down the high-powered Washington offense, but also to see how the Caps will adjust should the scenario repeat itself.

I pondered throwing out some numbers regarding how the Capitals dealt with the trap during the regular season, but to be honest, those statistics won’t mean that much going forward. Why? Because passing lanes go from Roseanne-wide to Ally McBeal skinny in the playoffs. Because shot blocking responsibilities go from a few players with wacky shin pads to a near league-wide mandate.

Nope, instead, breaking the trap will come down mostly to the Capitals’ talented European players and the zone breaking tactics employed by coach Bruce “Gabby” Boudreau. I couldn’t help but think that the playoffs (not just this series, since the Canadians are – in my opinion – wildly outclassed) will be a great test of an intriguing statement former Caps winger Viktor Kozlov made to Elliotte Friedman.

Had an interesting conversation with Viktor Kozlov about Bruce Boudreau. Kozlov said Boudreau is a genius at attacking and defending the neutral zone.

Reason number 1,874 that I love the playoffs is that we get some real answers – bad bounces and luck be damned. Capitals players, front office and even fans have been playing the victim/disrespect card repeatedly this season but now the Caps have their chance to prove that The Big Bad Media and The Dirty Underground Bloggers did them wrong. I can’t wait to find out if Washington can convert their staggering regular season success to playoff glory.

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    Doan makes Jets/Coyotes franchise history

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    The Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise has a new leader in career points.

    Shane Doan set the new mark at 931 points, taking over the franchise lead from Dale Hawerchuk thanks to a three-point night in a 4-1 Coyotes win over the Calgary Flames on Friday.

    He scored twice — his first goal of the night tied Hawerchuk’s record — and added an assist. At 39 years of age, Doan has 21 goals this season and is on pace for his best season in that department since he scored 31 in 2008-09.

    In fact, at his age and this stage in his NHL career, he could set a new personal best for goals in a single season.

    Despite all the off-ice turmoil the Coyotes have gone through, and the speculation of that franchise possibly uprooting from the desert, Doan has hung in there.

    That’s not to say he hasn’t spoken out at times about the constant controversies that have come up between the organization, the city of Glendale and the NHL.

    In September of 2012, prior to the lockout, he had the choice to sign elsewhere. He narrowed his options down to Vancouver and Phoenix, eventually deciding to stick with the Coyotes.

    No regrets.

    Kopitar dominates with a hat trick to help Kings defeat Rangers in OT

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    Anze Kopitar received high praise from L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter following Friday’s win over the New York Rangers.

    All Kopitar did was score three goals on four shots on goal. He was also credited with five hits while winning 65 per cent of his faceoffs. His third goal of the evening with 30 seconds remaining in regulation pushed this game into overtime, where Tanner Pearson scored the winner for L.A. in a 5-4 victory.

    “It was Kopi’s best game of the season, that’s for sure,” said Sutter, as per LA Kings Insider.

    “Not just because he scored three goals, but it was his best game all around in terms of using his whole package. I mean, he was a pretty dominant player.”

    L.A. maintain an eight-point lead on the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead.

    The Kings’ victory came at a cost. Marian Gaborik left the game in the first period after being involved in an awkward collision. He did not return, and Sutter didn’t have an update on the veteran forward when the game ended.

    Video: P.K. Subban tossed after on-ice outburst toward officials

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    P.K. Subban was given a game misconduct on Friday after an outburst directed at officials in the final minute against the Buffalo Sabres.

    Subban was furious after the puck got caught up in the skates of the linesman in the neutral zone before Evander Kane then picked it up and scored into the open net. That put the Sabres up by two goals with 55 seconds remaining in regulation and ended any hopes of a Montreal comeback.

    Subban had some choice words for officials but his argument ultimately landed him with an early exit from this game. The Habs lost by a final score of 6-4.

    “I looked around to see if he was going to blow [the whistle,]” said Subban, as per Sportsnet. “The puck is coming out of the zone. It hits the linesman. He’s standing there and sees the puck coming. It goes back to the player and he puts it in the open net. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    “Are we supposed to smile and be happy after that and say, ‘Thank you’ to the linesman? I don’t think so. I’m a little bit disappointed about that, because I felt there was a minute left in the game [and] we still had a chance to score.”

    The Sabres scored four straight goals between the first and second periods, chasing Ben Scrivens from the net 1:28 into the second period.

     

    Video: Doan ties Hawerchuk for most points in Jets/Coyotes history

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    Shane Doan on Friday scored his 20th goal of the season, and tied a historical mark for the initial Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise in the process.

    Doan scored in the first period against the Calgary Flames, tying him with Dale Hawerchuk for most points in Jets/Coyotes history with 929.

    Now 39 years old, Doan has spent his entire career with that organization, playing one season in Winnipeg before the organization moved to Phoenix.

    He also joined another impressive list, too.