WASHINGTON — Is Capitals coach Barry Trotz out-coaching himself?
Former player and current CSN Mid-Atlantic analyst Alan May thinks he might be. He joined The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday morning, after the Capitals blew a 2-0 lead to fall behind in their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, revealing his thoughts on the team’s struggles.
Some of his primary concerns: Washington’s role players not stepping up, and Trotz trying too hard to make those players effective.
“If you had to point to one thing that’s letting the team down … what’s the one thing that’s killing this team?” asked host Eric Bickel.
“I think the adjustments aren’t there,” May responded. “I think the way that this is being coached by Mike Babcock right now, I think Mike Babcock is running the Capitals’ show right now. He’s changing their players, when you look at what’s going on, with the line deployments. Alexander Ovechkin only had 15 minutes last night. I thought Alexander Ovechkin was flying, and he needed to be on the ice with [T.J.] Oshie and [Nicklas] Backstrom a lot more, 5 on 5.”
Asked if Ovechkin was simply not playing because the team was constantly in penalty-kill mode, May wasn’t having it.
“You still have to put him on the ice, I don’t care about the penalties. Fifteen minutes throughout the entire game is not enough. He’s got to play more. Everybody’s going to point the fingers at that damn guy, and there’s a lot of guys that aren’t pulling their weight. But I’m telling you what: Ovechkin’s pulling his weight, Backstrom’s pulling his, T.J.’s pulling his. Other players need to step up.
“But I’ll tell you what. When you have the best goal-scorer in hockey, and maybe the best line in hockey through the regular season, put them on the ice and let them do what they do. You have to score more goals to win the series. The Caps aren’t scoring the goals to win the series right now because the top line’s not where they need to be, and that’s on the ice.”
May wasn’t done.
“The biggest thing is the adjustments that they’re not making. The Leafs haven’t changed what they’ve done once this series, and all their defensemen are doing — because they’re so bad in their own end — are slapping the puck all the way down the ice to forwards, who are down near the Caps’ blue line, and those forwards are redirecting the puck behind the goal line. And they’re putting it in the trapezoid, they’re sticking the puck to the boards, and then they’re going on a heavy forecheck.”
May then offered solutions on how the Capitals could combat the Maple Leafs’ strategy before returning to Washington’s own strategic problems.
“Who scored last night? Backstrom and Ovechkin. You look at them, they’ve been here the longest, and I thought they were putting out the most. It’s on these other guys to say ‘I haven’t been here, this isn’t my history, this isn’t my curse, or whatever you want to call it.’ And they’ve got to make up their minds that they’ve got to be better, because right now, we’re not seeing enough out of those other players. I’ve seen a lot out of Ovechkin and Backstrom in this series, so you can’t pin the blame on them for the failures of the past and the failures of this series right now.”
“So I just want to make sure we’re clear on this, Alan,” Bickel followed. “Your suggestion is, listen, Babcock is out-coaching Trotz. It is what it is, we love Barry, but it is what it is. And your response would be, if you were Barry Trotz, would be get your stars out there more. That’s the move you would make. Play Ovechkin more, play Backstrom more, screw all these like fancy line changes and everything, screw the third and fourth line, get your studs on the ice longer. Is that correct?”
“Yeah, I’m with you right there,” May responded. “I would rather go down swinging with my top-line players than not.”
As for the rest of the series, May is “extremely disappointed” with how the Capitals have played, and is “in absolute shock that they’ve let this happen.” He claimed Wednesday’s Game 4 is a must-win game for Washington, and if it can win that clash to even the series at two, games apiece, it should be able to rally and win the series. But if the Capitals lose Game 4, May says: “they’re cooked.”
“This would be the biggest failure in maybe NHL history,” May said. “This is absolutely horrible what’s going on right now.”
The full call is available below.