Capitals throw themselves a Game 1 block party, celebrate with overtime victory against Rangers

Washington gets in the way of 32 shots, most of Boudreau postseason era

  • The Rangers' Brian Boyle, left, scores a third-period goal against Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov in front of Washington's Marcus Johansson (90) and New York's Erik Christensen.
The Rangers' Brian Boyle, left, scores a third-period… (Reuters photo )
April 15, 2011|By Katie Carrera The Washington Post

ARLINGTON, VA. — — The New York Rangers have long established the foundation of their team defense on a willingness to block shots. On Wednesday night, though, Washington bested the Rangers in that department with 32 blocks — the most in any of the 29 postseason games during coach Bruce Boudreau's tenure.

It's an impressive statistic, and it was the topic of the day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex after an optional team skate.

"It might sound weird but I pride myself on doing that — not being afraid to just dive in front of one," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "I think that guys on our team do that all the time. We block little ones here and there that go off sticks and that sometimes go unnoticed.

"We're OK if nobody says anything or it doesn't show up on the score sheet, that's fine. We know that at least we're getting our sticks in the right spot and it's good for our confidence when we're out there."

A willingness to absorb a shot is not necessarily new for the Capitals, especially since the team switched to a more defensive system in the middle of the regular season. Washington finished seventh in the NHL in shots blocked with 1,257; five players recorded at least 109 blocks.

"Shot blocking has become a part of hockey and if you don't do it you're not going to be successful," Boudreau said. "You look at all the best defensive teams in the league and their defense and forwards are committed to blocking shots and I don't think we're any different. I think it gets ramped up in the playoffs more, where every team sacrifices more."

Alzner said shot blocking is "a growing part" of the Capitals' game. "Guys are willing to take a puck off anywhere to make sure that they block it. That's what you have to do," he said.

Alzner and Jeff Schultz led the Capitals with eight and six blocks, respectively, in Game 1. There were times the blocked shots not only stymied an offensive possession for the Rangers but also helped the Capitals break out of the defensive zone.

"I guess it's just part of our team identity in blocking shots," Schultz said. "There's times where you can kind of be in no-man's land and have to and other times where it just kind of hits you, but it's just about sacrificing your body and putting the team first."

NOTE: Veteran defenseman Tom Poti, who has been limited by a pulled groin muscle all season and hasn't played since Jan. 12, fell in a game of three-on-three Wednesday and didn't skate Thursday morning. It was the first time in about 10 days that Poti hadn't skated. Asked whether Poti had suffered a setback, Boudreau said the defenseman was simply "sore" after a tough skate the day before.

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