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In my last article, I said this: “Droughty has flashes, and I say misleading flashes, of highly noticeable activity.” The Capitals game was the absolutely perfect example of that. Droughty had some good plays, some great plays, but also some bad plays, and some horrible plays. For a top-dollar defenseman, there were far too many bad and horrible plays.
One can cite the box score, but that is not the complete story. Yes, Ovechkin had no points and Droughty was his main matchup, but this was not ENTIRELY due to Droughty; in fact, Ovechkin’s greatest chances came because of Droughty mistakes. I also said last article, “I postulate that the team succeeds defensively despite Due Droughty.” Last night, at times, this was true, and when Droughty is being paid top-dollar he can have no excuses for glaring defensive lapses.
As for the “seeking of level” I mentioned between Johnson and Droughty, last night was also the perfect illustration of just that. Johnson’s only defensive mistake came late in the 3rd period with the Kings up 5-1 where he wandered toward the point and the Caps overloaded the net for a goal. This was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar game, with a goal and an assist, solid defense, excellent passing, and numerous other scoring chances on the rush. Droughty, meanwhile, was hot and cold, as I will show.
At 18:32 of the 1st period, Droughty (the rover) wandered into the zone as the LATE fourth man trailing a rush. While at the top of the circles in the center slot and well covered by Mike Knuble, Droughty tries to turn too late and his feet get caught up with Knuble’s. Droughty is out of the play, Knuble is not; the result is Knuble getting the primary assist on a Capital’s goal. Droughty over-committed, left himself vulnerable, got beaten by his man, and directly caused an outnumbered attack that resulted in a goal.
At 15:40 Droughty is again leading the rush, playing rover. I am not against his doing that, but my point is that he does it often, and sometimes regardless of time and score; this will be shown later in the game.
Then, at 15:15 of the 1st off a faceoff, Droughty stands still and takes a careless swipe at a bouncing puck just outside the Kings’ blue line; Ovechkin beat Droughty for position and was uncovered to the faceoff dot until Scuderi bailed Droughty out. In that play, one backs off, bears down and blocks it with the leg or skate, to neutralize the play. Droughty went all-or-nothing and lost. Yes, Loktionov batted the puck toward Droughty making a very tough play for Droughty to handle the puck, but Loktionov also was already covering Ovechkin. The correct play was to back off into a defensive posture, not remain motionless.
At 9:45 of the 1st, Ovechkin and Droughty got into that shoving match. Ovechkin gave the extra shove and Droguhty was down and out of the play. Afterwards, with play still going on, Droughty fully turns his back to the play and stares down the official. Team first? Discipline? Luckily, an offside was called while Droughty was having his personal time.
At 6:48, Droughty feels it is appropriate to have a little chat and laugh with Ovechkin after an icing race; is that intensity? Then at 6:12 Ovechkin pounds Droughty to the ice. The Kings respond with taps and nudges, and rather than the result being the Kings inspired (As Surly has felt) the immediate result was Jeff Halpern getting a clear shot that rang off the post at 6:00. Luckily it was Halpern. Droughty got beaten by his man, and it generated a chance against.
At 18:20 of the 2nd, again Droughty overplays Ovechkin into the boards, and Ovechkin eats him up. Droughty is down on the ice out of the play, Ovechkin has the puck, and luckily Ovechkin drops to his knees but is still able to make a pass to the slot. Droughty got beaten by his man, again. Then, at 18:00, Droughty wanders out to the center line to contest a puck with a reaching backhand swing that misses the puck and makes no contact with the man. The result is a bounce pass around Droughty to a guy named Ovechkin, who is again in alone, uncovered with Droughty trailing helplessly. Mitchell is stranded facing a 2 on 1, Ovechkin g4ts all the way to the net but this time Bernier bails Droughty out. Droughty was beaten by his man twice on the same shift.
At 16:05 of the 2nd Droughty wanders over to Scuderi’s point; the odd thing is that Scuderi is already there, with the puck, and so is Kopitar. Droughty’s point, and the middle of the ice, is left barren of protection. A screen shot shows Scuderi and Doughty within stick length of each other, Kopitar in the high slot tangled with Laich and moving toward the net, with Ovechkin alone at the blue line and the entire right third of the zone empty of Kings.
At 13:25 of the 2nd Droughty overleads Stoll when a good pass would have been a near breakaway for Stoll. In fairness, this came after the excellent poke check from Droughty when Ovechkin stopped up at the blue line, but still, Droughty was under no pressure and had a clear lane for the pass. This follows the trend of 3 errant passes in the period, including another one at 16:30, and another at 8:20.
The 3rd period was not perfect for Droughty, but it was much better. Knuble beat Doughty for position behind the net at 14:30, but a switch bailed Droughty out on that. At 9:28 Droughty goes rover on a PP following a weak dump into the corner, with no bad effects but considering time and score the play is unnecessary and risky.
The worst thing in the 3rd was after the Caps scored their second goal at 6:15. At 5:45 Droughty “rovers” the puck from the attacking blue line and carries it down to the net; a screen shot shows Droughty in the slot at dot height, with Brown at one dot, Kopi at another, and Williams stationary in front of the net. Why is Droughty pressing for offense now? He does not even get a shot on goal, goes behind the net and barely recovers to make a 2 on 1 ½ at our blue line. Just when the Caps have scored, and you have the game won unless something stupid happens, Droughty gets caught in deep? Time and score? Leadership?
My point is, as I said last article, that Droughty has a cavalier attitude. He does not appreciate that winning is serious business, and that there is a time and place for fun, and a time and lace to just shut it down and be smart.
This game is the perfect example of what I have been saying. A subjective view can be supported by some of the box score numbers that Droughty had a great game and the Kings rolled to victory. And, I am completely aware the Droughty made many, many excellent defensive and offensive plays in that game. His passing was way better than it had been lately, and was very, very good, in that he had a much better game passing the puck for outlets.
His power play performance was much better; Jim Fox did go on and on at least three times regarding that the Kings, and Droughty, were previously holding the puck too long just as I had said last article. Fox outlined the difference from the past when Johnson and Droughty combined some one-touch passes with a one-time shot that resulted in the power play goal. So, there was improvement, but I was not wrong that the improvement was needed.
However, even though his zone play was at times decent, Droughty’s coverage was sporadic. He got beat a lot; I have listed the times. He made decisions to attack that were questionable regarding time and score. He got caught deep early and late; the early one cost a goal. Ovechkin got by him repeatedly, at least three times for clear uncovered attacks. He let a questionable call distract him entirely from the ongoing play. He could be seen goofing around and joking with Ovechkin in-game; sure, mutual respect and all, but this is the freaking enemy here, show some edge and be a leader against the guy that is most likely to lay you out, don’t buddy up with him between whistles.
As I said, flashes of brilliance can sometimes be misleading. Discipline is what carries you through playoff intensity, and it is not something you can just click into when needed. Now is the time when the intensity is hardest to manufacture; the playoffs is the time when intensity is hardest to control.
Droughty needs to earn his pay fully, and for his money the number of mistakes is too many and the attitude is too light.