Monday, November 26, 2007

Notes on the beggining of the Boudreau era

Not a bad way to start an NHL coaching career, eh? First, Coach Boudreau leads the Caps to an overtime victory in Philly (snapping a 5 game losing streak), then another win over Carolina at home. Since it's nearly impossible for a coach to drastically change a team's philosophy in only a couple days, let's look at the simple changes he's made to the Capitals gameplan that seem to have reinvigorated the team.

First, Boudreau has abandoned the concept of having two balanced power play lines and has instead stacked his first line with the best available talent. Playing Backstrom, Nylander, and Ovechkin at forward and Tom Poti and Mike Green on defense, the Caps power play unit has managed to pot 4 power play goals in two games. Even better, they've actually been goals created by the entire power play unit, not just individual brilliance from the Russian Machine as had been the case for the past couple seasons.

It's amazing to see how much more puck and player movement the Caps have had on the power play. With two outstanding setup men and the league's premier finisher down low, defenses have been forced to collapse on the forwards, and with Mike Green given the, ahem, green light to attack the weak side the Caps have looked actually looked like the talented offensive team they are. Two outstanding passes from our Swedish centers resulted in two goals by Green, and the Caps power play is back from the dead.

Second, Coach Boudreau has focused on maintaining an aggressive forecheck system instead of sitting back and allowing opposing teams to build up steam headed into the neutral zone. Not only has this made it more difficult for teams to start their attack, it's also resulted in many more opposition turnovers in the neutral zone and the Caps offensive zone, which has lead to the Caps having to cover much less ice in order to generate an attack.

While it's tough to say whether the Caps can sieze on this newfound momentum and claw their way back into the playoff picture, one thing is for sure. The Caps have become a much more fun team to watch, and a much less fun team to play against.

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