Peter Laviolette isn’t Gerard Gallant and that’s a good thing

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SUNRISE, FL – NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Washington Capitals reacts to a play against the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on November 30, 2021, in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL – NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Washington Capitals reacts to a play against the Florida Panthers at the FLA Live Arena on November 30, 2021, in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

Laviolette typically employs a 2-1-2 forecheck system with aggressive play at each blue line. Additionally, Laviolette prefers controlled zone entries on offense rather than relying on dump and chase. However, Laviolette tends to play a more conservative game with a lead, switching from a 2-1-2 forecheck to a 2-3 lock.

Both systems send two forecheckers into the zone. However, the 2-3 leaves one forward high in the zone. The 2-1-2 sends an additional forechecker in deep. Pete prefers the
2-1-2 because it allows defensemen to join the forecheck.
Defensively, Laviolette inserts a low 2-3 collapse.

It creates a logjam in the slot but opens up the points. Laviolette prefers his teams to implement an umbrella Power Play and hybrid penalty kill on special teams. The umbrella Power Play aims to quickly move the puck to draw the goalie and fire from the other side. Player 1 controls the puck and can pass to Players 2 or 3 for a shot or Players 4 or 5 for a one-timer. Players 2, 3, 4, and 5 should be ready to converge on the net. Accuracy is critical. The formation allows for a slim margin of error. The worst thing you could do is bounce a shot off a defender and out of the zone. The hybrid penalty kill is when the four players on the ice form a diamond around the slot. It keeps the opponents forwards to the perimeter and forces them to make plays.

Under Gallant, the Rangers revolved almost everything around their East-west fanciness. That cross-ice stuff doesn’t work in the playoffs, and Gallant knew it.
He tried to convey his team away from that style and embrace the north-south game. They succeeded at times. But there wasn’t enough consistency. The speed of the Devils ultimately was their undoing.

Meanwhile, Laviolette’s injury-riddled Capitals ranked third in Defensive Goals Saved. However, where both Gallant and Laviolette struggled this season was defending goals off the rush. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Rangers ranked 25th, and the Capitals ranked 27th. Yet considering the 27-point difference between the two division rivals in the standings, it says more about Gallant’s deficiencies than Laviolette’s.

Laviolette also integrates player tracking and analytics into his coaching decisions. It goes beyond ice time and his lines. He adjusts his strategies to fit his team. All four lines will not be programmed to carry the puck into the zone like Gallant had.

He’ll use zone entry data to tweak breakouts. He’ll change zone entry looks based on personnel. He’ll study the opponent too. That’s something Gallant didn’t do. He repeatedly stated in his pregame pressers, “I’m not worried about their game. I’m worried about ours”. Pete doesn’t make that mistake. He’s known to use past success against specific players to determine matchups.

Everything he does is with a purpose. But there’s no guarantee it’ll be perfect. The downside to Laviolette is that he sometimes employs a 1-4 neutral zone trap with the lead. It’s a system designed to play defense completely. With the pace of play increasing every season, it’s best to attack rather than sit back.

However, that’s understandable when you’re behind a Washington bench that didn’t have much offense outside of Alexander Ovechkin this season. These Rangers are notoriously loaded on offense. They should have no problem adjusting to his systems.

That also means no more coaching excuses. Laviolette’s contract is for three years. That’s approximately how long this championship window will be left open for this current core. After that, out go, Zibanejad, Kreider, and Panarin. Lafreniere, Kakko, Chytil, K’Andre Miller, and others will take the reigns. The players wanted a coach with structure. They have one. Laviolette will show up every day. Hopefully, the athletes will too.