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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    Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

    Carey Price
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    There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

    ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

    So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

    Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

    (But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)

    Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

    After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

    Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

    Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

    As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

    The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

    Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

    They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

    The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

    Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.

    Dubinsky won’t change, and he won’t go easy on Crosby


    Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.

    That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.

    Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.

    “Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”

    In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.

    One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.

    Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?

    Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).

    Bad news for Boedker: Coyotes won’t face Sens again in 2015-16


    Sorry Mikkel Boedker, you won’t get to face the Ottawa Senators again this season.

    OK, it could happen if the speedster is traded from the Arizona Coyotes. He could also face the Senators in the unlikely instance that the two teams fight it out in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

    Beyond those two possibilities, Saturday night was it, and Boedker must have been licking his chops much like an actual coyote.

    For the second straight game, Boedker managed a hat trick against the Senators, helping Arizona beat Ottawa 4-3 last night. His third tally stood as the game-winner in a 4-3 victory.

    You can watch all three goals in the video above.

    It’s oddly fitting that Boedker has three goals this season … against teams not named the Ottawa Senators.