From their spot on the visitors’ bench in Verizon Center, the New Jersey Devils can see the home team’s struggles. They recognize that the Washington Capitals are going through a transition, a learning curve while trying to execute a new style of play consistently.
It’s easy for the Devils to identify because they went through the same thing last season in their first year under Coach Peter DeBoer on their way to becoming Eastern Conference champions and appearing in the Stanley Cup finals.
DeBoer installed a system with an aggressive forecheck, predicated on creating offense by forcing neutral zone turnovers, anchored by ample support and pressure in the defensive zone. That’s the same framework Adam Oates, who was an assistant coach under DeBoer in New Jersey last year, brought to the Capitals this year, and it takes time for it to become instinctual.
“We went through the exact same thing last year,” DeBoer said. “It’s moving around the ice as a five-man unit in all three zones seamlessly, without thinking. That’s the key. The first two months, if you’re thinking about where you should be instead of reacting, you’re there late and holes open up in your game. It takes a while to get that trust and that it’s second nature, and there’s no shortcuts to get that.”
New Jersey had the benefit of a full training camp under its new bench boss, a luxury the Capitals weren’t afforded in this lockout-shortened season. Even with the practice time, the Devils got off to a shaky 12-12-1 start in their first 25 games.
New Jersey Devils show where Washington Capitals want to be
Washington Post | Feb 23