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Capitals' Trotz on 'analytics death,' power play

by Dan Rosen

Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz isn't against analytics in hockey as a useful evaluation tool, but he's against his team playing what he calls an analytics game.

Trotz said he saw the Capitals do too much of that on their recent three-game road trip into Western Canada, when they went 1-2 with a win against the Calgary Flames and losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

We'll let Trotz explain:

"Teams were really clogging us up and when we needed to chip pucks and have self-retrieval we we're trying to dangle," Trotz said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "I call it analytics death. There's a time to carry and there's a time to self-chip it. You've got all the speed so self-chip it, get on the other side of the guy, and hang onto it. We were trying to dangle guys."

The pro-hockey analytics crowd argues that dumping the puck in is a bad play because why give the puck up just to go try to retrieve it? Trotz understands that point of view, but he said it doesn't take into account how a team is defending its blue line and the moment in the game.

What he saw in Western Canada was his team trying to force the puck into the zone too often only to either lose it or lose momentum.

"That takes all of your speed away," he said. "You get into that transition game and you're on the wrong side of the puck. I love that we have the skill that we can carry the puck in, but there are times when we can't and we still want to carry the puck in. It's those little decisions on this trip that we weren't as strong as we needed to be."

Here is Trotz on a few other Washington topics:

Washington's power play, which is 7-for-27 (25.9 percent):

"We've added a few more entries than last year. They had one breakout all year and we've added a couple of different looks so that's one area I think we're better in. The power play has been good, but it actually should be better. I think [Alex Ovechkin] the last couple of games has had a couple good looks, and he's firing just a little bit off to the left too far."

More on Ovechkin's shot being off to the left:

"Just lately he's been off. He's getting some chances, but when a scorer is on he's hitting that corner and no one is going to stop it. Right now he's just missing that corner and therefore the pucks aren't going in. But he's been good."

Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has no goals and three assists as he tries to adjust to playing center:

"He's going to be fine. He's just adjusting to the North American game, playing a new position as well. He's been really good on the power play. He's had moments 5-on-5 where he's been very, very dominant. And there are times where the North American game sort of eats him up a little bit. A lot of that is the back pressure. In the KHL there's not as much back pressure so he can move laterally more. He's got tremendous hands and vision, but in the KHL he can go lateral and here he doesn't have the space but he still tries to go lateral, it's not there, and he's surrounded. It's trying to get him to play more north-south, but with his skillset he'll be fine."

Brooks Laich, who will miss his fourth consecutive game with a shoulder injury:

"He won't play [Wednesday], but I think Tampa [on Saturday] is probably more realistic."

Check back with the blog later for Trotz's feelings on Mike Green's play so far this season. Green is averaging 19:50 of ice time per game, down from 22:43 last season. He has eight points in seven games.


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