Tag: dump-and-chase

Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Tomas Fleischmann

Capitals admit they’re “pretty useless” without productive Ovechkin, Semin


The Washington Capitals looked an awful lot like the dangerous team the hockey world expected last night, handling the New York Rangers 4-1.

Alex Ovechkin (two assists) and Alexander Semin (two goals) were a big part of that, prompting Jason Chimera to provide a very frank assessment of the team’s chances without those two snipers to CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley.

“Ultimately, if we want to win a Stanley Cup we need them going,” Jason Chimera said. “I think they know that. We gave the fans a glimpse of what we could be. Everyone else can be going, but if those two guys are not going our team is pretty useless.”

For years it seemed like the Capitals knew what they were getting from Ovechkin while Semin was the wild card. Now both seem unreliable, which can be seen in the fact that the Rangers game was Ovi’s first multiple point contest since Nov. 4.

Growing pains

To some extent, it might come down to the Capitals’ growing pains as they continue their debatable transition from an unabashed attacking team to a more traditional system. If you ask John Erskine, guys like Ovechkin and Semin must commit to the not-so-glamorous rigors of the dump-and-chase.

“If they’re going down 1-on-3 we need those skill players to dump the puck instead of trying to deke everybody out and you basically have no chance,” defenseman John Erskine said. “[Wednesday] night, it was not just them, everybody was buying in.”

Finding the right compromise

Last night’s win wasn’t a testament to grinding opponents to a turnover-prone pulp, though.

Instead, it showed how well Ovechkin and Semin can play when they’re engaged and proactive, making great passes rather than trying to do too much (like going one-on-everyone). It was an exhibition of smooth puck movement and lightning-fast decision making, not just buying into the dump-and-chase.

What do you think, though? Should Ovechkin and Semin chip the puck in by default or should the Capitals continue to try to find a compromise between two extremes?

Red Wings and Bruins take wildly different paths to success

Patrice Bergeron, Jimmy Howard

It’s understandable that sports teams attempt to “Keep up with the Joneses” by instituting copy-cat strategies to get an edge in the uncertain world of professional athletics. Yet that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to see every NFL team institute its own version of the “Wildcat offense.”

(This compulsion to follow trends and conventional wisdom is especially disappointing when a brilliant or truly different team dilutes what makes it special and successful to try to win like everyone else. I’m looking at you, 2010-11 Washington Capitals and trading-for-Shaquille-O’Neal-era Phoenix Suns.)

For anyone who wants proof that there’s more than one way to skin the cat in hockey, just look at today’s Game of the Week between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. These two teams institute strategies that or almost diametrically opposed, yet each squad leads their respective divisions and has a legitimate chance at a deep playoff run.

In this corner: “The Big Bad Bruins.”

Some absolute unintentional comedy took place when Bruins fans chanted “U-S-A!” as the Canadian-heavy Bruins pummeled the American-heavy Canadiens last week. It might have been more accurate for the fans to show a semblance of solidarity by chanting “North America!” because the Bruins provide a solid embodiment of that grittier style of play.

This post gets deeper into the details about Boston’s increase in fisticuffs, but to make a long story short, the team is tied for second place in major penalties this season. It’s not as if there’s no reason to their violent rhymes, either; the Bruins don’t take an outrageous amount of minor penalties when they’re trying to behave.

Boston walks an interesting line between chaos and controlled aggression, making them a team that is becoming a nightmare to play against.

In that corner: The high-skill Red Wings.

The Red Wings can be a nightmare to play against too, but it’s because world-class players such as Pavel Datsyuk can make you look stupid (as opposed to simply slapping you stupid).

While the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big fuss about keeping their gloves on this season, Detroit obviously laid out that template for Steve Yzerman & Co. The Red Wings only have eight major penalties this year, the least in the league by five. In fact, you need to combine their major totals for the last four seasons to top Boston’s current 2010-11 output (60 to 56, if you’re wondering).

Yup, the common assumption seems accurate: the Red Wings really do avoid fighting and taking penalties, preferring to hurt opponents by lighting up the scoreboard on the power play rather than solving issues by dropping their gloves.

Other differences

In the grand scheme of things, the Red Wings often play a very “European” style. They rely on positioning and clever stick work to befuddle opponents in their own end, although their team defense has declined a bit. Most of all, they rely on their outstanding forwards to use their skill and intelligence to beat opponents. Meanwhile, the Bruins are a great example of the “North American” style. They seem at home when it comes to gritty play, getting in fights and playing a dump-and-chase system.

Detroit got a hearty first laugh with their dominant 6-1 win on Friday, but this afternoon’s game should be another interesting clash between two very different clubs. Considering the talent and quality coaching on both sides, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these two polar opposites collide again, either.

Only next time, it would be for the Stanley Cup.