Laughlin: Caps leaving opponents 'too much' space

Chris Lingebach
February 21, 2020 - 7:15 pm

As the Capitals search for answers to their skid of mediocrity, one reason for their downward trend, Craig Laughlin says, comes down to spacing.

During Laughlin's weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance – presented by American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning – Danny Rouhier observed how "it seems like it's just too easy for teams to get up and down against them."

"There's too much space," Rouhier said. "Is that a defensemen issue? Is that a forwards issue? Not pinching back? Is it not enough forecheck? Help us understand what we're watching here."

"I think it's a combination of what you just said," Laughlin replied. "I think you can't put the blame all on the forwards. You can't put the blame all on the D. It's, to me, working together."

"Back when the Caps were playing well – and you'll see this if you watch closely when we see a full shot of the rink during the game – the big telltale sign is, are there five guys in the shot?" he continued. "That is the key. So defensively, if there's five guys in the D zone, that's good. If there's five guys in the neutral zone, that's good. If there's five guys in the offensive zone, that's good.

"So to me, it all comes down to units of five. You can see when they're playing poorly, case in point: the two breakaways they allow (against Vegas). Well, the guy steps up from behind the net, hits a guy at the far blue line – he's got a breakaway. But if you looked at the gap between the forwards who were trying to establish a forecheck and the D who were right around center, that's a huge gap to play with. Too much."

"If the three forwards had been at the blue line, the two defensemen at center, then you have five guys in the same area, and to me that's missing," he said. "The forwards are going; the D aren't."

"A good analogy would be this," Laughlin went on. "When you're watching the game, if the three forwards are at the far blue line on the attack, if the Caps' D are coming over center, that's a good thing. If the Caps' D are still at the far blue line trying to come out of their zone, that's too big of a gap. So I use the lines as a measure of good defense.

"If you see guys – and it's gotta be all five – within that area, the Caps are playing well. When they're not, they're gonna be exposed."