Photo: Bruce Bennett
The Washington Capitals lost just fifteen seconds into overtime of game three, and it was totally preventable.
After a comedy of errors and poor decisions by the Capitals, John Tavares chipped a loose puck over Braden Holtby‘s shoulder to give the Islanders a 2-1 series lead.
I asked former Caps blogger Eric Rigsby– a coach, an ex-college club player, and current Old Fat Bald Guys hockey player– to break down the play for us.
I think John Tavares’ game three OTGWG is the result of a fundamental problem in the Caps’ breakout strategy. The Caps’ primary zone exit is where the defense throw pucks to wingers on the boards who then pass or chip to a center driving to the middle. Against a fast Islanders team, this will not cut it.
In this screenshot, Boychuk has dumped the puck in on Holtby after Nick Backstrom loses a face-off and Joel Ward loses a subsequent puck battle. Holtby easily flags down Boychuck’s shot with his glove and has control. Many people, including Mike Milbury, think that he should have held on to the puck at this point. Yes, he could waited for the whistle and gotten a defensive zone face off, but I see nothing wrong in keeping things moving.
Carlson accepts the puck from Holtby, and it becomes decision time. Please note where Brooks Orpik is. He has been caught high in the zone off the Backstrom face-off loss and quick dump in by the Islanders. Orpik can’t get back in time to support Carlson if he wanted to reverse the puck, which would have been a great option.
At this point, John Carlson has the puck and has been forced to the outside by the Islanders forecheck. He is committed to going up the wall. Orpik is coasting to a defensive position in the middle of the ice. He could have tried to come back harder and give Carlson the option to reverse behind the net. But he doesn’t. Things are alright here though if the Caps can clear with Carlson coming up the wall. However, John Tavares is all over Joel Ward. Jack Capuano has drilled into his forwards that the Caps love to go to the puck side winger along the boards to get out of the defensive zone. Things are about to go bad.
Joel Ward attempts to chip the puck off the Carlson pass. The puck ends up on the Islanders point man’s blade. The Isles now have two forwards low with clear lanes to the net and a point man who can shoot uncontested. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Orpik are in no man’s land. Ovi and Backstrom were likely trying to support a Ward pass to center. This looks really bad but the Capitals still had a chance to recover.
This is actually decent defensive coverage with one glaring mistake.
The Islanders’ point shot and deflection is saved. Then the rebound is directed back at Holtby by Brooks Orpik who was still standing in front. Holtby attempts to sweep the puck to the outside. Notice, the Caps have slot coverage and Carlson has recovered to the middle of the ice. However, look at the gap he has to cover to check Tavares. If you give John Tavares that much room, he’s going to score.
After the game, Braden Holtby wondered if he should have held onto the puck and forced a face-off.
Braden Holtby says in hindsight maybe he should have held onto the puck and taken faceoff on the OT winner. #CapitalsTalk
— Chuck Gormley (@CharlesAGormley) April 19, 2015
Meanwhile, Barry Trotz was disappointed by Carlson’s decision about going up the wall.
Trotz on what led to Tavares' GWG: "We don’t need to throw it up the wall. We had options. We just didn’t pick a good one."
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) April 19, 2015
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