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The Slippery Slope

As I had written numerous times while Boudreau was still coaching, the key to success for any team is finding consistency.  While this is typically referring to players at a high level, I also intended it to prove that coaches must provide players with the chance for consistency.  That was a problem with Bruce.  He became impatient with the lack of chemistry between new additions and the corps, so he was repeatedly inserting new players into the line-up and juggling the lines.  With Dale, we have seen a much longer leash given to players in their attempts to hit their strides.

Last night, in the 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders, we saw Dale move some lines around late in the game.  In an attempt to get the Caps on the board, Tomas Kundratek found himself with only 1 shift in the third period.  This was due in large part to the moving of Laich to the blueline and bringing Cody Eakin up to the 2nd line.  Although this is nowhere near as much juggling as we saw under Bruce, I worry that this could be the first step in the wrong direction.

After about a month of trading wins and losses under Hunter, the Caps seemed to finally find their stride in late December.  A resounding 4-1 victory over the Rangers started a run for the Caps.  Since that victory the Caps are 7-3, and have moved back into playoff position.  Throughout these past 10 games, we have seen relatively the same lines.  The only real changes over this stretch have been the insertion of Tomas Kundratek in Erskins’s place and Cody Eakin falling into place over Matthieu Perreault.  Even the goaltender, Tomas Vokoun, stayed the same for each game.  By all appearances, it seems Dale has finally found the 19 he wants suited up each and every night.  A loss like the one we saw last night can sometimes make it far too easy for a coach to shake things up.

While the Caps did have a 2-game skid in California, being shut-out on home ice to a non-playoff team is a completely different beast.  To make matters worse, the Caps have to travel for a game tonight in Montreal.  Following tonight, the Caps will make their way to Raleigh on Friday, Pittsburgh on Sunday, and back home to play Boston next Tuesday, then it is the All-Star break.  That is a rough stretch, but Dale needs to keep his formula together.  In the long-run, it will be better for this team to struggle together, rather than struggle in pieces.

It is important to remember that the Capitals are regularly scratching 3 healthy players each night in Perreault, Schultz, and Erskine.  With rookies like Eakin, Orlov, and Kundratek regularly playing, it can be too easy to look to the scratches when the team falters.  We already know that John Erskine will return to action tonight, as will Matthieu Perreault.  My assumption is Kundratek/Beagle will be the scratches.  The first of those spots seems to be nothing more than a fill-in until Mike Green (hopefully) returns at the end of February.  We will see tonight how the Capitals respond, but I can only hope that 1 poor game against the Islanders will not undo all the work this team has done in the past several weeks.

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Is Erskine in simply to get payback on Bourque?

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 01/18/12 at 09:47 PM ET

Matthew Tate's avatar

They are not saying that for sure, but I believe so.  Seemed like more than enough reason to get him a start.

Posted by Matthew Tate on 01/18/12 at 09:51 PM ET

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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.