F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 02/14/12 at 04:10 PM ET
Last night the Washington Capitals fell to the San Jose Sharks 5-3 at Verizon Center. If you watched this travesty, you know that the score line was more of a 5-1 with some window dressing. The main issue with this game was not that the Sharks simply were unstoppable, but that the Capitals could not get out of their own way. It was a game ripe with blind, behind-the-back passes to nobody in particular, poor clears, and a pass-first, shoot-poorly mentality. More than that, it showed me that the Capitals, and fans alike, need to stop kidding themselves.
I am not calling for the throwing in of the towels, but, as it sits, the Capitals cannot afford to keep making these same decisions. Firstly, the coaching staff needs to change their mindset. Before the game last night, it was announced that Tomas Vokoun was too sick to back-up Neuvirth, so they simply called up Braden Holtby on an emergency basis. While Neuvirth did play the previous afternoon, Holtby actually played 60+ minutes the previous night. With Holtby only being able to stay up until Wednesday, I assume Hunter saw it as a good point to get a first-hand look at Holtby. This is all fine and well if you are not fighting for playoff hope and haven’t already told Neuvirth he is going to start.
With Holtby already catching a ride down to D.C., I guess the coaching staff wanted to cash in some vouchers as they also recalled Joel Rechlisz. Rechlisz is currently averaging a whopping 1:58 in ice-time per game. Prior to last night, his only impact on his previous 2 starts had been embarrassingly failed attempts to drop the gloves. This was the case again last night when he attempted to get Douglas Murray to drop them in his first shift. Rechlisz would only skate one more shift, and would spend 10 minutes in the box in the 2nd when he was called for going after a Shark, while Rechlisz was still on the bench. Yet, it is still seen as a better move to play him for 2 minutes than Mike Knuble or Keith Aucoin. Don’t try to say it was about Winchester making runs at guys last time either; both Hendricks and Chimera have shown they are not afraid to drop the gloves. All we get from Rechlisz is a guy who tries to be Sean Avery, but comes across as more of The Mangler (Matt Anglestad).
While I am on the subject of undeserving players, I think the topic of Jay Beagle needs to be brought up. I agree that Jay Beagle has one heck of a work ethic. Yes, he is willing to muck it up in the corner and kill penalties, but he just doesn’t have the ability to be a consistent start in the NHL. All I see when I look at him is Quintin Laing, a guy with tons of heart who is never to going to actually impact an NHL team, aside from being a gory memory. Frankly, I would rather see what Christian Hanson or Chris Bourque can do.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the top minute guys. The biggest two pretenders right now are Johansson and Perreault. This is not to say that they shouldn’t be in the NHL, but more that they aren’t where they need to be. Johansson is trying too much to be Backstrom. I realize that he feels the need to step up and fill the void, but he needs to play his own game. I lost track of the number of times last night that Johansson attempted to stick handle through 2 or 3 Sharks. I know for sure the success rate was zero. Hell, one time all he did was run into Wideman. This is a signature Backstrom move, but Backstrom is much better physically than Johansson. Johansson is not able to use his body effectively enough to shield the puck away. The sooner he finds his game, the sooner he can actually be a contributing force.
Perreault has a similar issue. He simply is not big enough on the puck. I know small guys like Martin St. Louis can be good hockey players, but the difference is that they appear to be able to grow in size when they have the puck. Perreault seems to wilt at the first sign of contact. I have no issue with Perreault being used on the 3rd or 4th line, but he is not a top 6 forward, and I don’t see him ever becoming one.
Next time you get the chance: have somebody who is much taller than you stand directly in front of you. Now have somebody throw a ball your way. Chances are you will have difficulty catching the ball. It becomes significantly harder to catch something when you can’t see it. This is something that still seems to elude the Capitals. They watch as team after team plants somebody in front of Vokoun or Neuvirth, but cannot seem to copy it at the other end. This becomes increasingly more difficult when you put together a line like Semin, Perreault, and Ovechkin. None of them are being used properly if they are just screening the goalies. That is why this team went out and got guys like Brouwer and Ward and why they already had Knuble, who his is one of the best at screening goalies. I know Ward has been a bust thus far, but it couldn’t hurt to play him on the power play on occasion.
In the end, it all comes down to players adapting. Last night, we watched Ovechkin repeatedly throw the puck to no one in particular. We watched Semin try to force passes across the slot. We watched Wideman, and Carlson, and Ovechkin all pass up quality point shots in hopes of hitting a man on the back door. This is all a clear product of players wanting to play on their terms, when it clearly isn’t working. Hockey, like any sport, is seeing what the other team is doing and reacting appropriately. If they give you the shot, take it. If the lane isn’t there, pass it. How this team continually mixes up these simple actions is beyond me. If they are indeed looking to move a guy like Knuble, Erskine, or Shultz then just do it now. This team does not have the luxury of toiling in mediocrity for 2 weeks.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.