Brooks Laich was coy but confident before Game 4 against the New York Rangers.
“I don’t want to divulge a whole lot, but there are some areas where we would like to think that we can expose them a little bit. They’re very aggressive in some areas where if we play well defensively, we should be able to transition that into some offense,” he said. “That’s about as deep as I want to get into it, but there are some areas where having played them three times, we’re picking up a few tendencies where we might be able to create some more offense.”
The Washington Capitals did that to even the series, with goals coming directly from some changes made in the offensive zone. New York finished with just seven blocked shots, a result of dumping the puck into corners and throwing them in front of the net.
“We wanted to make sure that if we had the chance, we get it to the net. But when we didn’t, we had to get it behind the net and start a cycle and get the puck to the net,” forward Keith Aucoin said. “It’s tough. You want the puck in front of the net; you want clear shots. But we’ve been playing pretty good as a team cycling as a team and we’re getting used to it. I thought we did a pretty good job [Saturday] when we got the puck behind the net. We’ve got to continue to cycle and wear them down.”
Some of it has to do with how the Rangers position themselves to block shots. They don’t challenge puck possession at the points very often, choosing rather to sit back and wait for shots.
“They were kind of deep with five guys kind of down low. When we have puck on the blue line, we have little bit of time to get it through, and if not, we can pass D to D like we had a couple times with me and [Mike Green] last night,” defenseman Roman Hamrlik said Sunday. “You have to think really quickly to get the shot. It doesn’t have to be hard. It could be wrist shot and get it through. If we don’t have a play, we go behind the net and our forwards are supposed to be there and cycle down low. We have to use it more – low and high and try to get the shots through to the net.”
It’s a harder way to play and forces the Caps’ forwards to win battles in the corners consistently to generate offense. But, as coach Dale Hunter pointed out, “You want to get pucks on the net because good things can happen.”
So results make it worth it.
“They like to play tight in their D zone, their forwards collapse a little bit so our D-men have a little bit more time at the points so if we can get pucks back to the point and go D-to-D and stretch them out a little bit, it gives our D men a better lane to the net,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “Plus if we have nothing, we can just throw it down behind the net and try to create room a little more room on the cycle for ourselves.”
Hunter said usually it’s hard to anticipate an opponent’s counter adjustments, but everyone knows they’re coming from the Rangers.
“It is just a back-and-forth type of game and I feel like Dale’s doing a good job with his adjustments and making it so that even during the game we know what we’re doing,” Brouwer said. “We made ours, they’re going to make theirs. I think that first power play did a great job of getting pucks through and getting good looks on net.”