Skip to main content

Berube: Penguins must contain Ovechkin in Game 6

Former coach says Washington forward was catalyst in Game 5

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, has enlisted the help of Craig Berube to break down the action. Berube will be checking in throughout the series.

Berube, 50, was the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013-15. He was a Flyers assistant coach for six seasons prior to being promoted to coach on Oct. 7, 2013. The Flyers were 75-58-28 under Berube. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the New York Rangers in the first round in 2014.

WASHINGTON -- If goalie Braden Holtby's performance was the difference in the Washington Capitals season-saving 3-1 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Saturday, the adjustments coach Barry Trotz made are a close second.

Trotz flipped his top two centers, moving Nicklas Backstrom down to play with Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov up to play with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie. Burakovsky replaced Justin Williams in the top-six forward group.

In analyzing the game, former Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube felt Backstrom in particular looked better than he had at any point in the series.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm 5: Ovechkin fires a one-timer for PPG

Backstrom had an assist on Ovechkin's power-play goal in the first period and ran the power play from the right side that led to Oshie's goal in the second. His line also had some effective 5-on-5 shifts.

It's unlikely Trotz will change what worked for Game 6 at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Sometimes Backstrom plays better when he plays with different people, different types of players rather than a pure scorer like Ovechkin," Berube said. "He's looking to always set him up, get the puck to him, but when he plays with different people, different personalities, it puts more on him to do more. I thought he responded well."

Berube also saw some changes to the Capitals' power play that allowed them to score two goals. He felt they moved the puck quicker and started looking for the simple play rather than the perfect play. He used Ovechkin's goal as an example.

"Backstrom moved the puck right away to Ovechkin, which they need to do because Pittsburgh is coming with so much pressure all the time," Berube said. "That puck movement to Ovechkin allowed him to make that great shot. That's what they have to do on the power play because Pittsburgh comes with so much pressure. They're not going to have time to make the perfect play. They gotta realize that simpler is better, get it to the open guy and shoot the puck."

Berube saw another adjustment that helped Ovechkin score on his hard and high one-timer at 4:04 of the first period.

Instead of using defenseman John Carlson at the point as the go-between to set up Ovechkin's one-timer from the middle to lower part of the left circle, Backstrom threaded Ovechkin a pass and he shot it from the top of the left circle, more toward the middle of the ice.

"Where he was at, it's tough because you gotta respect the middle of the ice, and Oshie is there for a one-timer too," Berube said.

Oshie had just gotten up, but Penguins forward Eric Fehr was locked on him, leaving Ovechkin open.

"It's a hard play," Berube said. "The forward has to drop down and look at Oshie. It's probably an adjustment the Capitals made to get Ovechkin more open. He just pulled out a little bit. It's a tough area to cover."

Berube wondered if the Penguins were probably thinking that they'll leave that shot for goalie Matt Murray to stop, but that's the danger when you leave Ovechkin open.

"I don't blame Murray at all on that goal," Berube said. "It was just a great, great shot. It was moving and he put it right in the top corner. There's not a lot the goalie can do. You can look at it and say he should have that, but I don't know, that's a tough save."

Berube said the Penguins will now have to think about some adjustments they want to make on the penalty kill.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Oshie buries home rebound for PPG

Do they bring the forward up higher to take away Ovechkin and let a defenseman handle Oshie in the high slot, essentially pressuring Backstrom's options instead of pressuring Backstrom? Or do they pack it in?

They seemed in between on the power play that led to Oshie's rebound goal in the second period.

Backstrom drew two players to him, but they eventually backed off, packed into the slot, and let the Capitals move the puck around. It went from Backstrom to Carlson to Ovechkin for a one-timer that Murray stopped. The rebound came out to Oshie and he put it in.

"They're going to be looking at that and thinking about maybe adjusting there," Berube said. "The thing with Ovechkin is you've gotta pay close attention to him. His shot can beat goalies without traffic. His shot is maybe the best in the league. You've gotta be careful with him."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.