Earlier today, Cam Charron wrote about the listless Washington Capitals, and as usual, did a good job using numbers to demonstrate just what’s going on. I want to look at them from a systems angle, and my stance is pretty black and white:

Asking the Washington Capitals to play defense-first hockey is like asking Tim Wakefield to “maybe not rely on that knuckleball so much.” Maybe the trap-era Devils should’ve opened things up a bit? Hey Ray Allen, maybe don’t attempt so many threes, man.

It’s a rule most of us learned in high school: trying to be something you’re not doesn’t work. And with a team whose core is comprised of Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, “who they are” is a high-octane group that should be primed like sled-dogs, running, running, running. Keeping them leashed up seems backwards.

As @DobberHockey put it to @banginpanger and @japersrink on twitter today:

I’m worried that they made the wrong decision on what style of play to employ based on one hot goalie (Halak), and now they’re stubbornly sticking with it. The run-and-gun thing was working great, play to Ovi’s strength!

And isn’t that a terrific point? They major switch to a “focus on defense” type of team happened after a playoff failure in 2009-10, which can largely be traced back to one goaltender’s extended blackout where he played out of his mind. The Capitals scored three goals over the final three games of that series (all losses) - I don’t think a lack of team defense was the issue there. They only gave up eight over those games.

The response from the other two gents was equally logical:

From @japersrink

Well, it stopped working. But maybe a small tweak instead of a 180 could’ve worked. Impossible to say.

Yup.

From @banginpanger

That was my initial inclination too; but thought GMGMs moves picking up more suitable personnel would’ve fixed that; hasn’t

And he’s right – they did alter their team so they could play a different style of game, and in this humble blogger’s opinion, there’s the root of their problems. Teams had trouble slowing them down in the past – now it’s like they’ve done it for them.

Hindsight it 20/20, and we can all play armchair GM armchair coach (and we do, that’s what being a sports fan is), but can we find another, more likely explanation for this team’s struggles?

I don’t think so.

Those sled dogs wanna run, and right now, they’re being chained to the posts of their own d-zone.