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How Matt Murray's playing style is leaving the glove side open for the Caps

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How Matt Murray's playing style is leaving the glove side open for the Caps

How do you beat a two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie? Shoot to the glove side.

That seems to be the strategy the Capitals are taking against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

In the three games of the series, the Capitals have scored 10 goals. One goal was on an empty net in Game 2. In Game 3, John Carlson scored on a deflection and Alex Ovechkin whacked the game-winning goal out of midair.

The other seven? All of those goals have come against the glove of Murray.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, however, dismissed the idea of Murray's leaky glove, saying shooting to the glove side is a common strategy for goalies that play his style.

“When you look at the ways goaltenders play the position in today's game, there's a lot of butterfly style goaltenders,” Sullivan said. “When goaltenders butterfly, there's certain areas of the net that tend to get exposed. Usually under the crossbar is one of them. Our guys try to do the same thing. I just think that's the style of most of the goaltenders in the league in today's game.”

There are numerous goalie techniques in the game of hockey, but they all boil down to two main styles of goaltending: stand-up and butterfly. Stand-up goaltending is rather self-explanatory. In the butterfly, goalies will drop to their knees to make a save with their legs and arms out on either side. As one would expect, the stand-up technique leaves openings for low shots, while the butterfly leaves more of the top half of the net exposed.

The difference between the butterfly and stand-up goaltending is…striking.

For the most part stand-up goaltending is all but extinct. Essentially every goalie in the NHL is playing some form of the butterfly, but aspects of stand-up are incorporated into hybrid techniques that combine both styles. So while every goalie plays the butterfly, some are not as quick to drop to the ice as others.

Braden Holtby, for example, is a more patient goalie than Murray when it comes to the butterfly. That’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a difference in style. In Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Matt Calvert scored on a shot that looked like it completely froze Holtby, but it only looked that way because Holtby is not as quick to drop to the butterfly. The more patient the goalie, the more likely they can get “frozen” by a quick shot that is not low to the ice.

The flipside of the coin is a goalie like Murray who is very quick to drop. Watch this goal from Game 1:

Despite the fact that Evgeny Kuznetsov's shot is high to the glove side, Murray’s reaction is to drop immediately. Both of his knees are down when the goal is scored.

Since Murray likes to drop so quickly, focusing on the glove makes sense because he is more likely to leave more of that area of the net exposed, especially with the number of clean looks the Caps are getting with opportunities off the rush. Either Pittsburgh will have to start getting in the way of those shots or Murray will just have to get faster with the glove.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

Less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, the Caps are in need of a new head coach.

Barry Trotz resigned as the Caps coach on Monday after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. How did we get here and where do both parties go from here? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break it all down.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

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7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

For now, Todd Reirden appears to be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.

But who is he? 

Here are some things to know about the Capitals head coaching candidate:

1. Reirden spent the last four seasons with Washington on Barry Trotz's staff

Should Reirden be hired, he would bring a measure of familiarity with him few teams get after a coaching change. Reirden was hired by Trotz in 2014 when Trotz was putting together his staff. He was brought in to coach the team's defense and immediately improved the blue line.

In the year prior to Reirden's hiring, the Caps allowed 2.74 goals per game, good for only 21st in the NHL.

Here is what the defense has done in Reirden's four years in charge of the defense:

2014-15: 2.43 goals against per game, 7th in the NHL
2015-16: 2.33 goals against per game, 2nd in the NHL
2016-17: 2.16 goals against per game, 1st in the NHL
2017-18: 2.90 goals against per game, 16th in the NHL

In those four seasons combined, Washington allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than every team in the NHL but one. He was also in charge of the team's lethal power play.

2. Reirden has been a head coach before

While he may never have been a head coach in the NHL, Reirden does have some head coaching experience.

Reirden was promoted to head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While head coach, Reirden led the team to a 55-43-8 record.

3. Reirden came to Washington from the Penguins

Reirden joined the Penguins organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate and took over as head coach later that season. He joined the Penguins' playoff staff during the 2009 Cup run. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach under with the NHL team under Bylsma in 2010 and was there for four years until Byslma was fired. Reirden was not initially fired, but was allowed to seek other opportunities. When he was officially fired, the Capitals hired him the same day.

4. Reirden had a lot to do with Matt Niskanen signing with the Caps

Reirden was hired by the Caps on June 25, 2014. On July 1, Matt Niskanen signed with Washington.

Reirden and Niskanen developed a strong relationship while in Pittsburgh. Niskanen dealt with confidence issues after getting traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh in 2011. Under Reirden's tutelage, Niskanen developed into a top-pair defenseman. Niskanen's agent said at the time it was "no secret" that Reirden and Niskanen had bonded while both were in Pittsburgh.

Brooks Orpik also signed with the Caps as a free agent that year, the second defenseman from Pittsburgh to sign in Washington showing the level of respect they felt for Reirden.

5. Reirden nearly became the head coach of Calgary

Reirden interviewed for the head coaching job in Calgary in 2016 and was considered a finalist for the position before eventually losing out Glen Gulutzan.

Gulutzan was fired by Calgary after the 2017-18 season and is now an assistant coach in Edmonton while Reirden is the frontrunner to become the head coach for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Sounds like things worked out for Reirden.

6. The Caps have been grooming Reirden to be a head coach

Reirden was promoted to associate coach in August 2016 after Calgary had passed on him. Since then, the Caps have not allowed him to interview with other teams for head coaching positions. The implication was clear, this was someone the team wanted to keep.

"You know I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or someone else," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan Monday.

7. Reiden played in 183 career NHL games

Reirden was a defenseman drafted in the 12th round by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After playing four years at Bowling Green, Reirden went pro with several seasons in the ECHL, IHL and AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1998-99 season. Reirden would also play with the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes. 

For his NHL career, Reirden scored 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.

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