The Atmosphere and Direction in Washington is Changing… For the Better
Once the 2013-14 season concluded, the Washington Capitals were left without a identity. The Washington Capitals organization went from being stuck in neutral to a shift in reverse.
Enter the 2014-15 NHL season. An experienced NHL coach has entered the fold for the Capitals. His name is Barry Trotz, former head coach of the Nashville Predators.
So how has Barry Trotz’s presence behind the bench helped the Capitals? What have the Capitals improved on that will help them in the long run? Have the Washington Capitals become a team that plays with an identity once again?
According to Mirriam-Webster, the definition of “Truculent,” is “feeling or displaying ferocity,” “deadly or destructive,” “scathingly harsh,” and “aggressively self-assertive.” You may have heard hockey executive Brian Burke use the word “truculence” during a press conference before.
During the preseason and first couple of games of the regular season, the Washington Capitals have displayed early signs of a new found “truculence.” They have incorporated a defensive ferocity on the ice. Their defensive “gap control” on their opponents has tremendously improved. The Capitals have improved in their own defensive zone and they have made it harder for their opponents to get quality shots and scoring chances.
Through two games this season, the Capitals have allowed 24 and 29 shots against respectively against the Canadiens and Bruins. Keep in mind that these are two of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals have done a better job limiting shots and scoring chances compared to last season. If the Capitals continue this defensive trend of limiting shots and chances for the opposing clubs, they should win a lot of hockey games this year.
The Washington Capitals have displayed a new version of toughness under Barry Trotz. This new toughness is both physical and mental. The Capitals have been criticized for many years because they have lacked toughness, whether it has been physical or mental.
It has been seen that the Capitals have adopted the family atmosphere that Trotz has preached about. The Capitals are standing up for one another during scrums and they are fighting for the person that also wears the same sweater on the ice.
The Washington Capitals are now playing as a functional unit. They are no longer playing like a bunch of individuals. There is structure in their game, in all three zones of the rink.
Barry Trotz has brought some of the rugged Western Conference mentality to the Washington Capitals. The Capitals are now a team that plays a tight checking game. They have found a balance between tight checking and aggressiveness. They have been able to limit shots against and they have been able to generate shots for against the opposing team.
Gone are the days of fire drills in the defensive zone. Gone are the days of going whole periods without generating any shots or chances against opposing teams. This Barry Trotz version of the Washington Capitals plays with a tougher mentality. They play for one another, and they play with a chip on their shoulder.
If the Capitals keep playing the way they have been during the preseason and early part of the regular season, they should win more hockey games this season. The Capitals are feeding off the new positive energy and friendly environment Barry Trotz has put in place. If they keep believing and buying into the message that Barry Trotz has put in place in front of them, the playoffs will return to Washington once again.
NHL clubs that go the furthest in the playoffs are the clubs that display the most toughness, both physical and mental. These clubs may not have the most talent, but they are the clubs that have the ability to overcome the adversity that gets put in front of them. Barry Trotz’s blueprint of truculence and toughness and family atmosphere will prepare the Capitals for the long run. No club can succeed in the NHL playoffs if they are not physically or mentally tough.
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I am from Virginia. I am covering the Washington Capitals for The Hockey Writers. I love to write and I am a huge sports fanatic – especially hockey. Follow me on Twitter: @Canucksfin56