Capitals must 'fire rubber' at the net 'every single chance they get'

By 106.7 The Fan

The Washington Capitals are playing for their playoff lives as they face elimination entering Game 4 against the Islanders Tuesday night.

One of the best offensive units in the NHL during the regular season, the Capitals have been limited to just five goals in the first-round series by the Islanders. If they are to stave off elimination and climb out of this 0-3 series hole, they'll need to find a way to fire pucks at the net with urgency.

"I think they have to play a way more physical brand of hockey and simplify everything," Caps analyst Alan May told The Sports Junkies during his weekly appearance, driven by AAA.

"Once they're inside the offensive zone, they've got to get pucks to the net way quicker, bodies have to be there, and I don't care how fast those pucks get to the net, they've just got to get there," he said. "The Islanders are closing them out and forcing them to play perimeter, and the Caps are kind of falling right into the trap of that style of play.

"They're not doing enough. The tactics have to change. If they want to get on the board in this series, they've got to fire rubber at the net every single chance they get, and right now, they're trying to be too picky, they're trying to pass through sticks and it just doesn't work. And the Islanders aren't going to change their system, so the Capitals need to change theirs big time."

May wouldn't single out any one player for over-passing, saying rather it's a team issue that's got to stop if the Caps hope to stay alive.

"I think all players are to blame, but the coaching staff has to get these guys and force them. They've got to harp on them every shift," he said. "I see probably (Evgeny) Kuznetsov, I see (Lars) Eller trying to go through sticks too many times. The guys on the third and fourth line should be just trying to fire anything they can at net and do something, because they don't even look like they're that effective right now."

"The third- and fourth-line guys are, normally you noticed every game (Nic) Dowd, (Garnet) Hathaway, (Richard) Panik, during the regular season anyways," May continued. "They were making a difference. They were crashing and banging. They were getting great scoring opportunities. And the last game they didn't have one scoring opportunity in the first period.

"The closest shot they had to the net was 44 feet, and I say it's because they're not urgent enough to get it there. Fire rubber from anywhere, race to the front of the net, simplify. The fancy stats hockey, the analytics hockey does not work and they're getting crushed in all of those areas right now with how they're trying to play this game."