Caps Defense MUST IMPROVE This Season

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Posted October 8, 2014

“Defense! Defense! Defense!” (Caps Outsider)

Despite going 5-3 in the preseason, Capitals fans should still be wary of whether the team defense has improved from last season. The Caps enter the year with some momentum after their final preseason win over the Hurricanes, but will face a tough Montreal offense in the first regular season game Thursday. The Caps carried a 2.625 goals against average in the preseason, and Barry Trotz will need to improve the defense so the Caps can rebound after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik should surely help a defense that was 22nd in the league in goals against average and allowed 33.5 shots per game for the 2013-2014 season. Mike Green will certainly benefit from those two in the defensive rotation. He should be motivated this year to regain his old form, as he playing for a hefty new contract this summer. Green had a positive On-Ice Corsi rating (4.30) but struggled when he played alongside sub-par defenseman; Dmitri Orlov was the only other player to have a positive On-Ice Corsi rating (2.66) who played more than 50 games. Trotz announced Friday that Orlov will likely begin the season on injured reserve due to a broken wrist. John Erskine is expected to fill the role of sixth defenseman, and his physicality is a major asset for the defense. Niskanen brings a 6.64 On-Ice Corsi rating, and fans should see an improvement with the top 5 defensemen being John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Orpik, Niskanen and Green.

Orpik brings a physicality to the defense that will certainly help incumbent starting goalie Braden Holtby. The goaltending must improve after  Holtby ranked 23rd in the league in save percentage. While some people have had mixed reactions to Orpik’s signing, Orpik will eat up valuable minutes of Carlson and Alzner, who were the only two defensemen to play in all 82 games for the Capitals last season. Expect the Capitals to use Orpik, who finished 1st on the Penguins in blocked shots (143) and hits (221), heavily, with Holtby being the prime beneficiary of his hard-nosed playing style.

During Barry Trotz’s tenure in Nashville, the Predators were known to have a stingy defense despite a subpar 2013-2014 season. One thing for sure is that the Caps will play aggressively in the offensive zone. Alexander Ovechkin will have to make sure that he adjusts to Trotz’s defensive approach. Ovechkin is not known for his hustle on defense, and unless he can put forth his best effort in all aspects of his game, he will never be able to win his team a Stanley Cup.

The Canadiens will certainly be ready for another playoff run this season. They would like to build upon last season’s spectacular offensive showing, where they totaled 209 goals on their way to a playoff appearance. The Caps have improved this offseason, but so has the rest of the teams in the Metropolitan division. If the Caps want any chance to make the playoffs this season, they will have to improve their defense.