Special teams have been crucial in this year's postseason. The Capitals upset the Bruins to reach the second round in large part because of their vastly improved penalty kill, which ranked 21st during the regular season (81.6%). Eight games into the playoffs Washington has the top penalty kill of the postseason (92.6%). One reason is that coach Dale Hunter has his players packing in around rookie goalie Braden Holtby and selling out to block shots. The other is a nifty set play that the club has been using on face-offs in the defensive zone when it is shorthanded. It's not a new strategy, but the Capitals (and several other clubs, including the Rangers) have been successful at winning draws back toward the goal line, then playing the puck into the opposite corner, where their wingers have two options: either clear along the boards or through the middle of the ice (where the center is breaking in hopes of a shorthanded scoring chance). The success of the play depends on quick puck movement and stretching the offensive team.
ILLUSTRATION BY ALEXIS SANCHEZ
[The following text appears within a diagram. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual diagram.]
1. Center wins puck back; defenseman plays it along end boards to opposite corner
2. Wing breaks to corner and clears puck along boards or through middle