The long road the Caps have created for themselves comes in part due to the long ice of the even periods: when their bench is the farthest from their own net.
Part of hockey’s uniqueness is changing on the fly and switching ends after every period. That combination creates special challenges replacing personnel in the second period and first overtime (period 4): your bench is suddenly a long way from your net, forcing players to be more responsible when it comes to relief.
Tampa Bay’s overtime goal in Game 2 was dissected as the definition of a bad line change -- two tired forwards and a defenseman were sure they had dumped the puck deep enough to get off the ice without an issue.
Indeed, the puck was at the Bolts' own goal line. Perhaps one or two Caps were clear to leave responsibly, not all three. The result was a Lightning-quick and lengthy pass up ice, creating an ill-fated 2-on-1 that gave the visitors a 2-0 series lead.
To be fair, it could be assessed that the players coming off the bench were not quick enough over the boards, and this is certainly not the sole reason the Caps' postseason could collapse in Florida.
It is one of those details that’s probably needling the coaching staff to no end. If it happened just that one time, it would be understandable.
A Nuevirth acrobatic save in the second period of Game 1, however, was also due to poor timing on a line change. “I know you’re tired, I know you want a change,” said the Versus broadcasters, “but you have to stay out there.”
The other part of that change is the length of each shift: get off safely and get off before you’re tired.
“I go as low as 15-20 second shifts,” Guy Boucher said Monday. “Especially in the playoffs; during the year if you’re extending past 35 to 40 seconds, you’re not working hard enough out there.”
Nobody will question how hard the Caps are working, but when it comes to switching up, it might be in question how smart they are working.