I have no idea why it’s constantly the Washington Capitals on the wrong side of Systems Analyst posts, but it’s starting to make me think they have some low-ish hockey IQ guys. I mean, you can only coach so much – eventually it’s on the players.

The Capitals lost a 4-3 squeaker at home to the Bruins in a game they could’ve won last night. Here’s my analysis of a pretty simple (“simple” in the “stupid” sense) breakdown in low coverage. The quick takeaway: while you’re figuring out whose guy is whose, cover that really open guy standing beside you.

The video:

The Bruins are just finishing up a change, while the Capitals are all back in their zone and positioned perfectly. You have Jeff Schultz on the puck carrier, Shawn Thornton. You have Dennis Wideman, the other defenseman, waiting in front of the Caps goalie, Braden Holtby. The wingers are well-positioned, and center Mathieu Perreault is back and low waiting for other Bruins’ forwards. Perfect:

Thornton, being the smart fourth line grinder he is, tosses the puck deep behind the net for his teammate Campbell coming into the zone. Things are still all fine and dandy even though both Perreault and Wideman head behind the net to defend Campbell. Dan Paille is entering the zone as well.

This gets sorted out quickly. As a general rule, you like to leave a defenceman in front of the net instead of the centerman, but once Wideman sticks with Campbell, it’s pretty clear that Perreault’s job is the front of the net. Schultz is still out with Thornton, Wideman is in coverage, and being that those three players work as a low unit in the D-zone, I mean, there is zero doubt.

And then…

The Caps are screwed.

Ignore the winger in the slot there – his job is the slot (especially being that there’s enough guys back for low coverage – no need for “help” defense), and if the puck goes high, that shooting lane. How can Perreault still have no idea what his job is when really, nothing has happened yet?

He’s still watching Campbell attentively while standing in no man’s land (shown above). As the center with two occupied d-men, his job is, once again, the net front. (Great job by Schultz this shift to find his guy and commit to him.)

The puck gets moved to the offensive d-man from down low:

Perreault now sort-of-decides to be a winger, and heads out on the shot. I’m so, so confused.



It’s somewhat insane that he still doesn’t know who he’s supposed to be covering. I mean, you, rec hockey person reading this, you’d have grabbed Paille by now, no? He hustles to the slot too, like there’s a reason to.

The winger misses the block, and the puck is about to pass Perreault when….

HE NOTICES. (That was a forced OMG Cat infusion, but whatever, I regret nothing.)

A heavily screened Holtby (getting body position in front of a goalie isn’t hard when you’re un-checked) makes the stop and gives out a small rebound, but at this point, you’re pretty much boned. When a guy blows coverage this badly, there’s just no fixing things.

And just like that…

The Bruins tie the game up, and end up winning by a goal.

You HAVE to be able to trust your centermen down low. I haven’t seen a guy miss an assignment that bad since I was in high school.


Now for my favourite part:

“Man, whose GUY was that?