Nick Backstrom defending the neutral zone

Photo credit: Scott Cunningham

After the Capitals’ humiliating 7-0 loss to the Rangers in December, head coach Bruce Boudreau changed his defensive scheme to include the neutral-zone trap. I won’t go into the how and why this system works, but it essentially looks to keep small mistakes from turning into major breakdowns that lead to goals against.

Over the years, the trap has often been associated with teams that have a “defense first” mentality – you know, boring squads. That’s a far cry from last season’s “run ‘n’ gun” Caps team that lead the League in scoring by almost 50 goals while being merely average at keeping the puck out their own net. Most notably, it satisfies critics who feel the system employed by Boudreau over the past few seasons is incapable of winning in the playoffs. But is it?

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