The Washington Capitals are sitting at home being forced to watch the playoffs on their televisions. Hopefully the pain of watching the playoffs on their couch will motivate this team to come into next season hungry to return to the playoffs. Another reason why missing the playoffs might wind up being a good thing is that the Capitals are watching the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings do a lot of things well that the Washington Capitals must do well in order to win in the playoffs. Here are just a few.
The Importance Of Puck Possession
Generally speaking, teams that dominate puck possession tend to win a lot of games. This season, nobody has dominated puck possession more than the Kings. They control the puck extremely well, and when they lose possession of the puck, they tend to get it back very quickly thanks to an aggressive forecheck. I would love to see the Washington Capitals take a page out of the Kings’ book and adopt a similar forecheck. It worked quite well under Bruce Boudreau.
Not only do the Kings have a great forecheck, their defense gets the puck in the defensive zone and gets it out quick. That’s something that the Washington Capitals struggled with last season. When you get the puck out of the defensive zone quickly, you significantly limit your opponent’s scoring chances. That’s something that I would love to see the Capitals do.
If nothing else, when you possess the puck, you can score. In hockey, barring a weird own goal, you can’t score if you don’t have the puck. By that same logic, if you are controlling the puck, your opponent can’t score. Seeing as how the two primary objectives in hockey are to score goals and to stop the other team from scoring, dominating puck possession obviously gives you a great chance to win.
Depth Is Your Best Friend
This is true not just of the Kings. The Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and Boston Bruins all have incredible depth at every position. What do they all have in common? They are consistently in the playoffs. The Washington Capitals used to have great depth at every position, but now they don’t. If they want to have consistent success in the NHL, they must have depth.
Why are the Kings so good on defense? Their incredible blue line depth. They can matchup with anyone thanks to that depth. They have options that can give the Kings more size or more speed on any given night. Having Drew Doughty definitely helps, but even if you take him out of the equation, the Kings still have an impressive core of defensemen. The Washington Capitals, however, don’t have much blue-line depth. That’s something that must change if the Capitals want to win a Stanley Cup.
Let’s not forget about the Kings and their forward depth. While it isn’t as impressive as their blue line depth, the Kings still have the depth to be able to put together four strong lines that attack the puck, possess the puck, and dish out 60 minutes of pain. Even though they didn’t score much before trading for Marian Gaborik, they still dominated puck possession without him. I think that’s a testament to how committed the Kings are to what they do. I hope that the Washington Capitals are that committed to what they do.
A Bold Front Office
A huge reason to the Kings and their recent success has been their front office. They realize weaknesses and fix them at very reasonable prices. A great example is when they traded for Gaborik. They realized that their offense needed was a goal scoring threat, and they got one for a pretty cheap price. This is where their depth is a huge asset.
In recent years, they’ve also gotten Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Flyers, Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Justin Williams from the Carolina Hurricanes. One might say that the Kings slightly overpaid for Richards (the Flyers got Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds), but you have to give up talent to get it, and judging by the success the Kings have had with Richards, I’m pretty certain the Kings regret nothing about that trade.
Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan would benefit from being that bold (and smart) in the moves that he makes.
I hope the Washington Capitals have been watching the Los Angeles Kings, because they could learn a lot from them.