“I think we took our foot off the gas,” Jay Beagle said to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt after Tuesday’s loss to Edmonton. “[We] kind of let teams creep back in.”
Surrendering two two-goal leads in in the last few games invites that sort of comment, and the media pressed Trotz about the Capitals’ lack of aggression during the postgame conference.
Trotz’s response was so confusing I might have an aneurysm before I finish this.
Here’s the Kafka-esque postgame quote, as first transcribed by NHL.com’s Adam Vingan:
When you’re up 4-2, you’re not thinking, ‘Let’s make it 5-2.’ You should say, ‘Let’s make sure we secure the hockey game.’ You don’t need to score another goal, but you need to secure the hockey game. If that’s the way they’re thinking, they’re thinking wrong. That’s the absolutely wrong answer coming out of their mouth that they sat back. We didn’t sit back. We’ve got to secure the hockey game. It’s 4-2, six minutes to go, we need to secure it. That’s absolutely the wrong message. We had a meeting about that yesterday, so obviously they weren’t listening very well.
If you finished that and said wha?, you’re not alone.
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) January 21, 2015
— Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) January 21, 2015
— Adam Stringham (@Stringhama) January 21, 2015
It helped me a bit to watch and hear Trotz’s response in the video published on Monumental. The salient portion of Trotz’s response begins at 4:07.
But even more helpful was the actual question, which came more than a minute earlier. I don’t know who asks it, but here’s how it goes:
A few of the players were talking about the differences in the game between the first period, the second, and the third, just mentioning that you were a little more conservative playing with the lead. Do you see the lack of aggression, deviating from the game plan… [inaudible]
Trotz begins his answer with some talk about match-ups and Edmonton’s goalie-pulling tactics before entering into the non-Euclidean answer above.
In an attempt to understand this labyrinthine dream logic, I’m going to go line by line.
When you’re up 4-2, you’re not thinking, ‘Let’s make it 5-2.’
Is Trotz saying that’s what the average hockey player does not think? Is he saying that players are not concerned with running up the score? Or is he saying that they should not be concerned with running up the score? The tone is unclear, but I think it’s the former– he’s stating what he thinks is a fact.
Understanding the context of the question and the portion of his answer that came before, which was about Edmonton pulling the goalie, perhaps he’s speaking specifically about scoring an empty-net goal– that players know it’s more important to prevent a goal than to score one. That’s possible, though the question was about aggression with a lead in general, not just play during 6v5.
You should say, ‘Let’s make sure we secure the hockey game.’
You can read this in (at least) two ways. 1) If secure means to win the game in general, that’s a simple enough message. Just win at any cost. Or 2) Maybe secure means to slow the pace of the game down so the score doesn’t change before the end of regulation.
I genuinely have no idea which he means.
You don’t need to score another goal, but you need to secure the hockey game.
Okay, this helps a bit. Trotz is saying that it’s not about running up the score (or at least not necessarily about running up the score), but it’s about winning at all costs. That’s what he’s saying player “should say” in his own words.
I think we’re getting somewhere.
If that’s the way they’re thinking, they’re thinking wrong.
He just flipped the script on us.
Didn’t Trotz just say that securing the hockey game (by not necessarily sc0ring) is what they “should say”?
But now Trotz is saying that thinking, the “secure the hockey game” thinking is wrong.
Or maybe he’s hopping an antecedent all the way back to ‘Let’s make it 5-2.’ That would mean he’s saying that intending to get another goal instead of focusing on preventing a goal is wrong.
Or maybe he’s going one antecedent further, to the original question about playing “a little more conservative.” Maybe Trotz is saying that thinking is wrong, which, by the way, it is. Safe is death.
I have no clue, but Trotz’s past statements make me lean towards the last option.
That’s the absolutely wrong answer coming out of their mouth that we sat back. We didn’t sit back.
This, thankfully, is an empirical statement. Trotz is asserting that the Caps did not “turtle” in the third period. I’m not sure if he meant specifically in the moments before Nugent-Hopkins’ tying goal.
If it’s about the whole period, the Oilers out-attempted the Caps 11 to 8 during 5v5 play (i.e. before Edmonton pulled the goalie). That’s a big drop-off in offense for the Caps, though they did spend a lot of time on the penalty kill.
And the play-by-play sheet records no offensive-zone events for the Caps between Purcell’s goal and RNH’s. Here’s a shot-attempt chart from naturalstattrick. Look at the blue dots at right; no offense from the Caps between them.
Whether or not the Capitals wanted to (which is a significant matter), they played entirely in their own end as the Oilers erased the two-goal lead. They were either not very aggressive or not very effective at being aggressive.
Perhaps there’s a schism between the coach and players on this point.
We’ve got to secure the hockey game. It’s 4-2, six minutes to go, we need to secure it. That’s absolutely the wrong message.
I’m starting to lose the plot at this point, so I appreciate the repetition.
I think– I hope– that the wrong message is ‘it’s okay to play conservative with a lead.’
We had a meeting about that yesterday, so obviously they weren’t listening very well.
Sick burn, coach.
If the team meets about this again, I hope they’ll consult my story about how they don’t play well with a lead.
I’m not a good public speaker, so I appreciate how hard it is to be perfectly articulate when speaking ex temp like Trotz did on Tuesday. His point, if I’ve understood it correctly, is that the Capitals have been instructed not to turtle in lead-protecting situations– though I’m not sure about that.
If that’s the case, that message has not been received by the players. We’ve seen the Caps’ possession drop precipitously when the Caps get lead. We’ve seen Trotz’s own lineup decisions contribute to that drop. We’ve seen the Caps lose multi-goal leads multiple times in the space of a single week. And now we’ve seen the players themselves characterizing their approach as passive.
Where is the communication breakdown?
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