Washington Capitals Roster: Built For Shootouts, Not Overtime


Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are taking a unique approach to three-on-three overtime by playing it safe. The Caps are probably smart for doing so.

The Washington Capitals have played in five three-on-three overtime periods so far this preseason. In 60% of them, the Caps took it to a shootout. So far in the NHL preseason, there have been 22 three-on-three overtime periods. 16 of those periods have been ended prematurely with a goal. The Capitals have been involved in half of the six overtime periods that went to a shootout.

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Three-on-three overtime was supposed to mean the end of shootouts. While I think that they should cut down on the number of shootouts, it’s safe to say that the death of the shootout was greatly exaggerated. The Washington Capitals have proven that so far in the preseason.

The Capitals have been going to shootouts by adopting a unique strategy that I believe some teams might start adopting as well. After allowing quick goals in each of their first two overtime periods against the Hurricanes and the Bruins, Barry Trotz made a bold decision to start utilizing a two defenseman and one forward strategy at times. That might deter offense, but it has stopped other teams from scoring. The Caps are basically using a very conservative approach to three-on-three overtime.

Why would the Washington Capitals want to leave games up to a skills competition? Because that’s an area where they have an advantage in. The Caps have two excellent shootout artists in T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Once Nicklas Backstrom gets healthy, he’s another great option. They also have Andre Burakovsky, Justin Williams, and Alex Ovechkin as options. The Caps are absolutely stacked as far as shootout shooters.


TSN (Travis Yost)

Unless the Caps are facing the Penguins or the Maple Leafs, they have an advantage as far as shooters. I can see why the Caps would want to go to a shootout. Can you really blame them for wanting the game to be determined in a shootout when Oshie can do things like this?

I can’t. They also have Braden Holtby. Shootouts used to be a weakness for Holtby because of  his aggressiveness. Mitch Korn has helped him turn it into a strength. He is at worst above average. Once you consider that Yost uses a three-year sample size, Holtby was impressive last season.

CREDIT: TSN (Travis Yost)

The only team that the Capitals would not have an advantage over in a shootout would be the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps are a team that is built to succeed in shootouts because they are so skilled. Another reason why the Caps should probably want games to go to a shootout was touched on in the comments section by Hooks Orpik from Pensburgh in a recent article.

"“If Flower is one of, if not the best, shoot out goalies, then why worry about a turnover leading to a breakaway? That’s basically the shootout.”Yes, if it’s that simple. A turnover isn’t just going to lead to a 1 on 0 breakaway. It could be a 2-on-1, 3-on-2, even a 1-on-1 using the defenseman as a screen. A well executed 2-on-1 with the caliber of players out there on 3v3 (i.e very, very good ones) will have a higher shooting percentage than Fleury’s shootout save %.Also, while Fleury is the best, he’s not 100%. There’s always the chance he gives up a goal, and unlike the shootout, the Pens don’t have a chance of their own to get it back and win in 3 rounds, because OT is still sudden death.If hockey’s OT was like soccer’s stoppage time and you could just score as many goals as possible up until the time runs out, it would be different. But in hockey OT, one mistake can cost the game. Shootouts are more forgiving since they are 3 rounds."

Holtby can afford a mistake in a shootout because there are three rounds. He has Oshie, Kuznetsov, and another above average shootout artist to bail him out. It’s all over if he allows a goal in overtime. As long as the Washington Capitals don’t take the foot off the gas and play it relatively safe, they’re putting themselves in a position where they are likely to have success.

The Washington Capitals overtime strategy is not for all teams because not all teams are built to succeed in shootouts. The Caps are a team built to succeed in shootouts. Trying to force games to go to a shootout is probably a good idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the other teams adopt a similar strategy because they are built for success in shootouts as well.

Next: Oshie: The Caps Shootout Specialists

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