Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has a blog of his own, where this post on the Capitals first round defeat to the Montreal Canadiens appeared this morning. Some snippets:
They played a defensive scheme that was very frustrating. They used their match ups deftly. They were more patient than us. They were more committed to their scheme. Be patient– trap– transition to offense off of turn over’s score on power plays.
They played committed team defense. They took our stars out of play all series. I believe our hockey IQ seemed low this series and we didn’t adjust well on the ice to the new schemes coming our way.
Perhaps Ted’s being gracious here…but this is all nonsense. The Capitals dominated the series with the Montreal Canadiens and if not for some posts, bad bounces and Jaroslav Halak posting a .980 SV% over the last 3 games, the Caps breeze into the second round. Sure, the Canadiens blocked a lot of shots, but they also gave up a lot – as in, 41.7 per game, the most of any team in the playoffs thus far. What that means is the puck spent an inordinate amount of time in the Canadiens end of the rink. The shot differential between these two clubs was 14 per game (or 98 shots over the 7 game series), which is simply massive. There’s nothing "deft" or "patient" about spending 3 out of ever 4 shifts in your end and hoping your goaltender can stop pucks at an inhuman rate. You might as well call "praying" a savvy strategy.
The Canadiens made their shots, took advantage of some bounces and had a goalie playing like Dominik Hasek on speed. They won the series and good on them. But the truth is they got bloody lucky.
As for the Capitals, I’m not sure what adjustments Ted thinks could have been made to change their fortunes. They generated way more shots and scoring chances than their opponents. That’s all there really is to hockey at the end of the day – there are various ways to do that, but that’s it in a nut shell. Sometimes you hit posts, sometimes goals are called back, sometimes your 40 goal scorer’s SH% plunges to zero for a few games and sometimes the puck looks like a beach ball to the opposing goalie. Short of knee-capping Halak, Boudreau couldn’t have done much more in this series.
UPDATE – Gabe notes some playing to score effects here which show that the Habs weren’t all that bad in the series and that the differential was partially due to the fact that they scored the first goal of the game so often. That said, their "prevent defense" didn’t exactly shut WAS down.