Wednesday after the morning skate, NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reported that veteran Capitals defenseman Mike Weber would get a sweater for Game Four. Barry Trotz is benching Nate Schmidt, the man who had a bad turnover which directly led to the Penguins’ game-winning goal Monday.
Trotz did not hide his frustration for Schmidt during his press conference with reporters after practice.
Trotz re: defensive changes: "You don't have time to pat the guy on the back; you just move on."
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) May 4, 2016
Just I’m not entirely sure this is the right move.
Monday, the Caps played one of their best games of the 2016 playoffs, out-shooting the Penguins 49 to 23. Schmidt, the young, puck-moving defenseman, was a big part of that, sporting a plus-nine shot attempt differential (17 for, 8 against). During the regular season, Schmidt was the first guy asked to log more minutes following injuries to Brooks Orpik this year, and he played dynamite. He owned a 50.6% Corsi and 56.58% Goals For.
Meanwhile, over the last three years, Weber (who spent most of his time in Buffalo) has a 41.73% Corsi, which puts him at or near the bottom of the league during that span. His hero chart will make you wince.
Weber is not going to win any footraces against the Penguins’ fast forwards, but when he gets there, he will be hitting them. Physicality has the ability to wear down players’ speed over time, and that has been a goal of the Caps all series long. Weber is not dynamic in the defensive zone, but he will be choosing the safe plays over the risky ones.
That may be what Trotz wants…the safe play, something Schmidt did not give Barry in Game Three, and something Dmitry Orlov did not give him in Game One.
But in a series where the Penguins have used their speed to push play, putting the plodding, gritty veteran into the line-up makes the Caps a slower team and a worse version of themselves. It also mitigates some of the advantage the Caps have with Kris Letang out.
Spenser Smallwood also contributed to this story.
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