Free Vrana to Fly the Defensive Zone Early
At a tactical level, the Washington Capitals could also do more to showcase their rising star. By encouraging Jakub Vrana to fly the defensive zone early to pursue open ice behind opposing defensemen, the Capitals could set the young winger up to do what he does best.
In this clip from last weekend’s trip to New Jersey, Vrana demonstrates his lethal ability in transition:
Caps’ fans may also fondly remember his effort that opened the scoring in the game that clinched the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup.
Neither requires an intricate passing combination or defensive blunder. Instead, the two goals illustrate a simple truth: there is no good way to defend fleet feet and a wicked shot in transition.
In both cases, Vrana anticipates that the Caps will reclaim the puck in their own end, and, rather than wait around to make himself an underneath passing option, Vrana dashes forward. When the turnover he predicted materializes, he is unmarked and available for a relatively easy pass to spring him into open ice. Once there, his afterburners engage, and Vrana frees himself into the space he needs to bury a wrister.
By empowering Vrana to attack vertically in this fashion with regularity, Washington could provide the winger with another avenue to showcase his gifts.