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(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) New York Rangers – Preview

It just had to be the Rangers, didn’t it?  As if both teams had not had enough of each other over the past five playoffs.  It honestly does not feel like there are any story lines left to see play out.  We’ve seen rookie goalies stand on their heads (Varlamov and Holtby).  We’ve seen a team completely collapse in practically no time (Joel Ward double minor).  We’ve even had to answer the question of which team had the loudest fans.  Is there anything we haven’t seen?  I guess we’ll find out starting Thursday.  ON TO THE BREAKDOWN!

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Can the Caps keep Mike Ribeiro?

Last night during the Washington/Toronto game, CSN Washington asked the viewers, as they do every game, to weigh in on a particular matter via Twitter.  The topic of the day was, essentially, what has been the biggest reason for the Caps’ surge over the past month.  While not every person tweeted the same thing, the overarching theme was the strong play of Alexander Ovechkin.  I can find no error with that reasoning.  Ovechkin’s recent discovery of old ways has certainly been the driving force to turn this season around.

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Caps Taking a Big Risk

A few days ago, I was talking to a buddy of mine about the Caps’ chances during these last few weeks.  He remarked “This team is good, but if they had somebody like Erat, I’d say they are a solid cup contender.”  Now, a bunch of you are no doubt going to call me a liar, that nobody could have had that foresight.  And you’d be right.  Because this team is not a Martin Erat away from the Cup.

In Martin Erat, the Caps will get a 31-year-old right winger.  This season, he has 4 goals and 17 assists over the span of 36 games.  Had this been a regular season, he would be looking at 7 or 8 goals at this point.  He is coming off a career year, where he scored 19 goals and 39 assists.  He has eclipsed the 50 point mark in 5 of the past 6 seasons.  They do also get Michael Latta, but I don’t expect anything from a guy with 184 PIMS in the AHL.

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Laich Set to Make Debut

A little over an hour ago, Washington Post’s Katie Carrera reported that Brooks Laich will make his debut tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Laich was injured while playing in Switzerland during the lockout and, in my opinion, has been a large missing piece in the team’s search for consistency.

While Laich’s stats have been declining over the past couple of seasons (down to only 41 points last season), he has arguably been the most consistent performer over the past 4 years.  While I understand the team’s logic in handing the captaincy to Alex Ovechkin, I still feel that Brooks Laich would have been the better choice.  He typically logs heavy minutes on the both the powerplay and the penalty kill either as a pivot or on the wing.

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Team Comes First

Last night, Mike Milbury had some not-so-nice things to say about Ovechkin.  While I personally think Milbury typically talks down about Ovechkin, this was different.  I usually end up zoning out half-way through because it’s usually the same old shtick that gets old after two or three hundred times.  I felt a little different listening to him this time.  It wasn’t a sense of agreement (though I’m not saying he was wrong).  It was a sense of total embarrassment.

Over the past two seasons, I’ve always been the optimist with Ovechkin.  I was a firm believer that he would eventually rediscover his goal-scoring ways and would be back in the hunt for the Richard.  I guess in a lot of ways, I still think it will happen.  Yet, this was not why I was embarrassed listening to Milbury tear Ovechkin apart.  It’s quite simply because the guy being made the fool was a member of the Washington Capitals.

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Lightning 6 Capitals 3 - Recap

The other day, I noted that there were just too many new faces on this Caps’ team and not enough time for them to learn a new system.  Tonight, it seemed truer than I ever thought it was as they were doubled up by the Tampa Bay Lighting 6-3.  Let’s get to the notes and breakdown.

Tampa Bay Goal: Eric Brewer (1) from Carle, St. Louis

This was really unfortunate for the Caps.  They had carried the majority of the play up to this point.  It was even the first shot that Braden Holtby had to face.  Marcus Johansson gave Brewer way too much space as he sent a one-timer past Holtby’s glove.  He was partially screened by Pouliout, but it is one that he will probably want back.

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The Questions

While I may have thought this day would never come, the Capitals are less than a week from opening the season down in Tampa Bay.  What begins that night is a sprint of 48 games to attempt to make the postseason.  There will be no time for elongated losing streaks or periods of uncertainty.  Any team looking for a shot to lift the cup will have to come out firing on all cylinders.  Those who stutter, will more than likely fall to the wayside.  This could spell disaster for a Capitals team that has more questions than answers at this point.

Who is Adam Oates, the coach?

Any fan who has been around since the 90’s can easily recall the incredible talent that was Adam Oates.  He was one of the most gifted playmakers of his time.  He is now a hall of famer.  That’s Adam Oates, the player.  We honestly don’t know what he is like as a coach.  This is his first shot to lead a team solo.  Given his offensive successes with the Devils and Lightning, he figures to be more offensive than Dale Hunter, but is he is extreme as Boudreau was?  As a player, he was able to hold his own on the defensive side of the game, but he hasn’t been responsible for running a blueline before. 

Aside for strategy, how does he handle a dressing room?  Is he capable of spurring a third-period comeback?  If the problem with Boudreau did have to do with Ovechkin, can Oates handle him?  He is given a lot of credit of turning around Kovalchuk’s career, so hopefully he can rejuvenate Ovechkin’s goal numbers.

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Lockout in Hype Town

It should not be a surprise to anyone that a lockout is undesirable outcome from these CBA talks.  Players want to play; owners want to sell tickets; we fans want to see our team, or any team.  When lockouts happen, nobody wins.  And yet, not everybody loses the same.  Obviously, there are teams in small markets, Phoenix, Columbus being the obvious chooses, that struggle to succeed financially when there is a season, but lockouts can also take stable teams back years.

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The Search Ends

The Washington Capitals have chosen former player, Adam Oates, as their replacement for Dale Hunter as head coach.  Oates will join the Capitals fresh off of a Stanley Cup finals appearance as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils.  He spent the last two years with the Devils, after being an assistant for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Aside from those assistant gigs, Oates has never been a head coach at any level.

As a player, Oates played 19 years in the NHL, including parts of 6 seasons here in Washington.  Like Dale Hunter, he was a member of the 1998 Washington Capitals team that took the franchise to their only Stanley Cup finals.  He ended his career with 341 goals and 1079 assists in 1337 games and 5 All-Star Game selections. 

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Capitals Acquire Mike Ribeiro

The Washington Capitals acquired center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars for Cody Eakin and a 2012 second rounder (54th overall).  The Capitals, and us fans, are hoping that McPhee has finally found the 2nd line center he has been looking for since Sergei Fedorov left in 2009.

Mike Ribeiro (32) is coming off his 6th season with the Dallas Stars.  In his 74 games played last season, he scored 18 goals and 45 assists.  He averaged just over 20 minutes a game last season, more than any other Stars forward.  The one knock on his game is that despite being the top center for Dallas, he was not entrusted with many faceoffs.  His 808 faceoffs ranked him 3rd on the Stars last season and he only won 42.2% of them, a number I would like to see improve a tad.  He is in the final year of a contract that will see him make $5 million next season.

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About F Street Faithful

Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at overtheboard@gmail.com.

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