Defense: recipe for success on homestand

Defense: recipe for success on homestand
March 25, 2014, 4:30 pm
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(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The Capitals have long had an appetite for scoring goals, but in facing the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins on a brief two game homestand, the Capitals expect a healthy serving of defensive minded hockey.

“They don’t give you anything,” Coach Adam Oates said of the Kings and Bruins. “You’ve got to work for everything you get. If you don’t have that attitude then you’re going to get spanked. It could be a 1-0 game. If we win 1-0, I’m going to be happy the next day. But it’s got to be that [defense-first] mentality.”

L.A. has allowed an NHL-low 2.04 goals per game while giving up the third fewest shots against per game (26.4). The Kings enter play Tuesday on a three-game winning streak and have won 11-of-14 overall.

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The Bruins, who visit Verizon Center for a Saturday matinee, have allowed 2.07 goals per game this season, second fewest in the NHL behind only L.A.

“You’re not going to get into too many high scoring games come playoff time and we understand that,” said forward Eric Fehr. “We’ve been working on our defense since the Olympic break and shutting teams down. If we can play tight defensively, we’re going to find a way to score.”

It would probably serve the Capitals well to score early. The Kings and Bruins own the top two winning percentages when leading after two periods. Los Angeles is 24-1-0 (.960%) and Boston is 37-2-0 (.949%) when leading after 40 minutes.

Both clubs have also enjoyed success on the road, as the Kings have won a season-high six-straight away from Staple Center, while the Bruins are 11-0-3 in their last 14 outside Boston.

BETWEEN THE PIPES:

The Kings did not hold a morning skate and it is not yet known whether Jonathan Quick will start a fifth straight game, or if rookie Martin Jones will make his 17th career NHL appearance.

Quick, the U.S. Olympian, stopped 30 of 32 shots in last night’s 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and could be due for a night off as the Kings play their fourth game in six nights.

Jones has never faced the Capitals before, but count Karl Alzner among those who are familiar with the 24-year-old’s game. Alzner and Jones were teammates with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen from 2006-08.

“It’s not easy to make the [WHL] as a 16-year-old goalie,” Alzner said, “so the fact that he was there and playing well showed that he was pretty impressive.”

It took time for Jones to make his NHL debut – sitting behind Quick and Jonathan Bernier on the organizational depth chart didn’t help- but the Vancouver native made an immediate impact once called upon. Martin became the fourth goalie in NHL history to begin his career with an 8-0-0 record and was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month in December.

“He’s a big guy (6’4”, 187 lbs), a tall goalie so he can cover a lot of the net; he does a good job covering down low, big legs, so you just try to find a hole,” Alzner said. “I think when you’re in tight you just have to try to get the puck up. I’m not a goal scoring expert, but that’s what I would try to do.”