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A Glance at Erskine

In years gone past, it's been pretty clear which defender on the Caps' roster drew the ire of the fans.  He might have once put together a +50 season (as if it really means anything), but Jeff Schultz was generally disliked by the fanbase.  With Schultz have been bought out this past summer, there had to be somebody step in a replace him.  It has become clear the John Erskine has stepped in to fill the void, and he might surpass the mark.

It's a pretty big shift for Erskine, who was a fan favorite for years.  He wasn't the fastest and definitely had nothing resembling a good shot, but he was tough.  And from a fan's perspective, toughness is something to be adored, especially on a team that is seen as "soft".  And Erskine definitely still brings that toughness to this line-up, but at the expense of basic defense.  Let's take a look at Erskine's body of work this past Sunday against Detroit.  Given the persuasion of most readers here a KK, it should give you something to enjoy from that game.

Let's start with Detroit's second goal of the game, coming off the stick of Tomas Tatar early in the second period.


As the video shows, the Red Wings start a breakout from behind their own net.  Due to some nifty skating by Kronwall, the Wings have a semi 4-on-3 against the Caps that gets negated due to Kronwall going off on a change.  As Tomas Jurco brings the puck up the right-wing boards and into the Washington zone, Eric Fehr applies pressure, causing Jurco to drop the puck to Sheahan in the center of the ice.  At this point, it's basically a 2-on-2.  Connor Carrick is in good position to defend Jurco, yet John Erskine cheats to his side of the ice.  Either he believes a backchecking Ward is covering Tatar or he simply doesn't know he's there.  I'm more inclined to think the latter.  Regardless, Sheahan bumps to Tatar who takes advantage of the ample space to get a shot in on Neuvirth.  One could argue that Neuvirth should have stopped it, but Erskine didn't exactly help him out in taking the shot away.  
Next, we'll look at Detroit's third goal, a Gustav Nyquist power play goal late in the second period.
This is a shorthanded situation, so it's a bit different.  For starters, we see Erskine on the opposite side of the ice.  As Zetterberg (who is being covered by Carrick) passes to Tatar, Erskine is forced to shift sides to cover.  This is 100% the right decision here.  Erskine does his job in tying up Tatar until Carrick can get back to help.  Once Carrick returns, Erskine takes up post at the top of the crease.  He has basically one job here and that's to stop any pass that is coming across.  He of course fails to do this and Nyquist has an easy lay-up for his second of the game.  Eric Fehr also takes the blame for this one as neither of them appear aware of Nyquist's presence, but the onus is on Erskine to not let that pass come get across.
At first, I was also going to include Nyquist's hat-trick goal, but that one falls on Backstrom more.  Erskine is on the wrong side of the ice again, but Backstrom has Nyquist and just stops skating.  
I'm not quite sure what is so different this season with Erskine.  My first instinct is that he just doesn't have anybody to cover him.  Right now, he's mainly working with rookies like Carrick and is expected to cover for Carrick, not the reverse.  That's also to say that Erskine never was a quality defender; he just had good enough teammates that his mistakes were less damaging.  In any case, Erskine is a large reason why this defense is as bad as it is.  And, contrary to what GMGM might have you believe, the fault of the season falls more on the blueline than it does anywhere else (goaltender included).  

Filed in: | F Street Faithful | Permalink
  Tags: detroit+red+wings, john+erskine, washington+capitals


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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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