Spy Games: 5 Questions with Capitals Blog Russian Machine Never Breaks
In the heat of the playoffs, fans and writers are usually very focused on their own team. Well, we reached out to Peter Hassett of the very popular Capitals blog, Russian Machine Never Breaks to share his thoughts on the upcoming battle.
1. The Caps have transformed themselves under Barry Trotz. What would you highlight as the most significant change since he’s taken over?
Undoing the damage done to the team by Adam Oates. Oates was a smart guy, but he was a meddler. His tactics were restrictive and weren’t tailored to his roster’s strength (puck-carrying defensemen like Mike Green were ordered to pass first during the breakout, leading to weakness in neutral). Trotz is a good coach, but his biggest virtue is not being Adam Oates.
2. Washington is one of the bigger teams in the league, how do think that helped them in defeating the Islanders? How do you think it will factor against the Rangers?
Definitely, but only because the Islanders allowed it. The Caps are heavy and heavy-hitting. The Isles, for a few games, opted to use their speed to get around it. By game four, however, the tone changed. The Isles started hitting back and playing Washington’s style. Washington is better at it.
The Rangers are probably even faster than the Islanders. If they use that, they could make 5v5 really difficult for the Caps. If not, if the Rangers want to play the physical game, the Caps might waltz to the third round.
The Rangers’ defense is good. McDonagh and Girardi are going to be on Ovechkin all the time, especially when the Caps are on power play. With Yandle in the mix too, the Capitals’ typical secondary scorers (e.g. Evgeny Kuznetsov) might have a tough time contributing. That said, I think the Caps have better forward depth and might be able to surprise the Rangers with some unlikely scoring forces.
4. Braden Holtby played very well in round one but had some rough moments. The game 7 goal against the Islanders stands out as an example of that. Where do you feel his game is heading into round 2?
Braden Holtby is an elite goalie, full stop. He’s near or on the same level as Lundqvist. There’s no reason to doubt his preparation or endurance. I’m not expecting him to do the headstands he did against Boston a few years ago though. A seven-game series is a tiny little snapshot of a who a goalie is. I’ve got no predictions for either him or Henrik, but they are both tier-one goalies.
5. I won’t ask you for a prediction straight out, but I will frame it this way:
The Capitals win if…
Girardi can’t shut Ovechkin down, the power play works, and secondary scoring remains effective.
The Rangers win if…
Martin St. Louis plays like we all know and fear he can, scoring at will from seemingly hopeless chances. That, or King Henry doing his thing.
Thanks to Peter and the team at RMNB for their time. Good Luck in round 2.
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