The Stanley Cup Final is a block party for the Washington Capitals.
For all of Evgeny Kuznetsovs points on offense and Braden Holtbys saves in net DJ Moore Jersey Panthers , the Capitals are one win away from blocking their way to the Cup. Theyve gotten in front of almost a third of the Vegas Golden Knights shots, blocking with enough smarts and precision to take a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 Thursday.
Theres more to blocking shots than just going out there and trying to get hit, Holtby said. Were doing a great job of creating the right layers, guys going out there strategically to know which lane Im picking for sight lines and theyre taking away the other half and making big blocks.
Washington is blocking in quantity and quality in the final, 86 total, in limiting Vegas to 124 shots on Holtby many of which hes seeing and stopping . Even star captain Alex Ovechkin is blocking shots as he gets closer to tasting his first championship.
You see `O jumping in front of shots, it makes everyone on the team want to do the same, winger Devante Smith-Pelly said.
Blocking shots is a team-wide commitment right now and comes from a seasons worth of skaters Authentic Customized Rams Jerseys , goaltending coach Scott Murray, Holtby and Philipp Grubauer getting on the same page. The goalies have worked on making sure they can see past blocks to give players the confidence to get in front of pucks.
And in return, Capitals players study opponents tendencies and consciously decide when to try to block a shot and not so Holtby isnt at a disadvantage.
You obviously dont want to cross in front of him, center Jay Beagle said. You dont want to become a screen. So if you miss the block, which happens, guys are good at shooting pucks and stuff, you want it still so from your standpoint you didnt hinder Holts view.
Defensemen have an understanding of which half of the net is their responsibility and which half is Holtbys. Forwards closer to the blue line have to react quickly, take the right angle and get to the shooter.
If guys have time and space Tyquan Lewis Jersey Colts , theyre going to be able to sift one through, Smith-Pelly said. For the forwards, its just going out there pretty hard and just getting in the way.
The amount of shots the Capitals have blocked through four games seems to be getting in the Golden Knights heads. Theyre struggling to get quality shots through and resorting to settling for lower-danger scoring chances.
If youre going to take shots, make sure they pay a price for blocking those shots, Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. Shoot it harder.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz doesnt want his players thinking too much about blocking shots or hesitating. He doesnt care much about Ovechkins blocking form or the philosophy of shot-blocking as long as it keeps the puck out of the net.
If youre positionally sound, if youre in shot lanes, block the shot, Trotz said. Its all about will.
And that will can turn into skill. Washington has been comfortable and confident enough in the final to push the puck up ice quickly Chris Herndon Jersey Jets , and a well-timed block shot can set the table for an odd-man rush.
The less shots they have, the more opportunities were gonna have in offensive zone, defenseman Dmitry Orlov said. Sometimes when you block it, you get quicker pass and you jump on the rush and you got 3-on-2 or 4-on-3.
The Golden Knights by this point are well-aware of that. But they dont really have a solution.
You just have to I dont know defensemen, puck fake, maybe move around, or maybe look for a guy off to the side, or put it off the end wall Isaiah Oliver Jersey Falcons , forward Alex Tuch said. There are a bunch of different plays that could happen and when theyre blocking shots theyre getting momentum from it, and if theyre blocking shots and having odd-man rushes thats even worse.
In addition to a suffocating neutral-zone trap thats not easy to play but has frustrated opponents for four rounds, the Capitals have embraced a shot-blocking-when-it-matters mentality.
Its not exactly fun, but you got to do if you really want to win, Smith-Pelly said. Everyone is on board with doing those things.
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