F Street Faithful
Entries with the tag: washington capitals
The Capitals had a rough start to their extended homesteand, falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. A decent start was undone by an absolutely abysmal second period, usually the Caps' best period. On to the reCap:
The Washington Capitals overcame a late goal to best the Islanders 3-2 in overtime tonight. After Thomas Vanek scored with less than two minutes to go, the Capitals scored a late shorthanded goal and took both points thanks to Alexander Ovechkin's 14th overtime goal. The win moves the Capitals into clear second place in the Metropolitan division. On to the reCap.
Earlier today, Katie Carrera of the Post reported that winger Martin Erat feels his time in Washington is up and he would like to be traded elsewhere. The 32-year-old Czech came to the Capitals at last year's trade deadline, along with Michael Latta, for first round pick Filip Forsberg. Since that trade, each of those players has scored exactly once. That is a fine number for young players like Latta and Forsberg, but Martin Erat is a proven double-digit scoring threat. Something has obviously gone wrong here, but the question remains, who is responsible for this disaster?
The Washington Capitals put in one of their worst showings of the season tonight, falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0. It's always infuriating to lose to rivals, but when you lose like this in your own building, it tends to sting a little more. For that reason, and the fact that they played so poorly, the usual reCap will be replaced by a bit of an overreaction to a November loss.
The Capitals completed yet another third-period comeback en route to a 4-3 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Capitals entered the third period trailing 3-1, but goals from Ovechkin and Latta were enough to force overtime and, eventually, a shootout. The win keeps Washington within a point of Pittsburgh, who beat Nashville earlier in the night. On to the reCap.
The Washington Capitals ended their brief Western road trip with a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. It was the second and final time the two teams have met this season, with Colorado taking both games by a combined score of 9-2. This game was rough to watch, and that is about more than the scoreline. On to the reCap:
The Washington Capitals squandered a third period two-goal lead en route to a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. The loss snapped the Capitals four-game winning streak and was the first shootout loss under Adam Oates. The Caps also failed to move within two points of division-leadin Pittsburgh, who fell to St. Louis earlier in the night. On to the reCap:
The Washington Capitals extended their win streak to season-high four games with a 3-2 shootout victory over the visiting Minnesota Wild. The Caps had to erase a 2-1 Wild lead late in the third with a Marcus Johansson goal. The Capitals also had a big penalty kill in overtime en route to the skills competition. The win moved the Caps to 9-7-0 on the season. On to the reCap:
The Washington Capitals turned in one of their best performances of the season tonight en route to a 7-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. What started sloppy, became high scoring, and eventually became a circus. It was the first shutout of the season for the Caps as well as their largest offensive outburst. On to the reCap.
The Capitals finished off their West Coast road trip tonight with a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Vanouver Canucks. It was one of those games that you could, in theory, chalk up the Caps simply being tired from the long swing, but only if you hadn't watched the Caps this season. On to the reCap:
The Capitals were unable to build on the last win as they fell to the New York Rangers by a score of 2-0. The loss drops them to 2-5-0 early in the season. Not a lot of good in this game, so on to the reCap:
The Washington Capitals managed to get back in the win column thanks to a 4-2 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oilers. Prior to tonight, the Capitals had lost three straight and had looked pretty mundane in the process. It also marked the first regulation win for the Capitals this season. On to the reCap:
The slow start to the Capitals season continued tonight with a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. As has been the case in the early season, they had some good chances, but just could not find a way to take advantage of them. The loss puts the Caps at 1-4-0 on the season and their lone win was not exactly noteworthy. On to the reCap.
The Washington Capitals have announced that they have assigned defenseman Connor Carrick and center Michael Latta to AHL Hershey. Carrick started the first three games for Washington before being scratched last night in favor of Alexander Urbom. Latta started the season with the Caps, but was sent down to Hershey after one game only to be recalled earlier this week. They have also recalled defenseman Nate Schmidt from AHL Hershey.
The Washington Capitals fell to 1-3-0 to start that season after a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was the Capitals first loss at home this season and first loss in the new Metropolitan Division. The Capitals got out to an early lead behind a Jason Chimera goal, but were unable to keep the Hurricanes from tying it up and taking the lead in the third period. On to the ReCap.
After what feels like another offseason, the Capitals will take the ice tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center. After facing off against three Western Conference foes to start the season, the Caps will get their first taste of life in the Metropolitan Division, even if it will still look like an old Southeast battle.
It may only be three games into the NHL season, but the understatement of the season might be that the Capitals are not good on even strength. Through the first three games, the Caps have been outscored 8-3 during 5-on-5 play. That does not include Marian Hossa's empty netter or Lee Stempniak's 4-on-4 goal. Oh, and those three that the Caps have scored: Grabovski on a 2-on-1, Carrick on a breakaway following a penalty kill, and Ovechkin off of a faceoff. They have yet to score from actually establishing offensive zone pressure. Their power play very well might be the best in the league, but you are going to spend much more time even than you will on the man advantage.
The Washington Capitals took a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars Saturday night, dropping them to 1-2-0 on the season. Yet again, the Capitals' even strength play continues to suffer, with their lone strike tonight coming on the power play. Honestly, was not a fun game to watch, but on to the reCap:
The Washington Capitals erased an early 3-0 hole to defeat the Calgary Flames 5-4 in a shootout. After giving up six goals to Chicago on Tuesday night, it was a disastrous start for the Caps as they gave up three first period goals to Calgary. It's one thing to have Chicago light you up, but for Calgary, a perceived lottery team, to run out to a three goal lead, that's a disaster. The Caps, though, managed to erase the deficit, tying the game late in the third period. On to the reCap:
Just one game into the season, the Washington Capitals have made some small tweaks to their roster, claiming Swedish defenseman Alexander Urbom off waivers from the New Jersey Devils and assigning fourth-line center Michael Latta to AHL Hershey.
A couple of days ago, I noted that the emergence of Tom Wilson was going to spell bad things for Mathieu Perreault. Yesterday that has come to be true as the Capitals traded Perreault to the Anaheim Ducks for AHL winger John Mitchell(and no, not the one you are probably thinking of) and a 2014 4th-round draft pick. And thus draws to a close the five-year stint in Washington for Perr-Ochocinco.
Perreault was drafted by the Capitals in 2006 out of the QMJHL. He officially joined the organization in 2008, quickly making a name for himself, racking up back-to-back 50 point seasons in Hershey. After a couple of seasons going back and forth between Washington and Hershey, Perreault became a full-time Capital at the start of the 2011 season. All combined, Perreault would play 159 games at the NHL level, racking up 33 goals and 37 assists and becoming one of the pound-for-pound fan favorites in the process.
It has come to light that Washington Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis will make a large announcement on Saturday at the Capitals Convention. There is some speculation as to what this is, but Sky Kerstein of 106.7 The Fan tweeted the above just moments ago. Maybe it’s the Classic, maybe it isn’t. Either way, it looks like outdoor hockey might be coming to the Nation’s capital next season.
For the second time in three years, the Washington Capitals took a short trip up I-95 to play a preseason game in Charm City. This time around, it was the Boston Bruins paying a visit to the hockey-starved city. Baltimore welcomed the Caps with open arms, even chucking a crab on the ice after a Washington goal. Yet again the Capitals found themselves playing more than the mandated 60 minutes, going all the way to their 3rd consecutive shootout, this one going 7 skaters. As was the case last time NHL hockey was played in Baltimore, the Capitals could not send them home with win, falling 3-2 in the shootout.
Washington Goals: Wilson (1), Wellman (1)
Boston Goals: Florek, Kelly
The Washington Capitals opened up their preseason schedule last night with a 4-3 shootout victory against the Winnipeg Jets. It might have been played on an Olympic-sized rink with a lot of rookies, but it's still our first chance to see our boys play in 4 months.
Washington Goals: Hillen (1), Galiev (1), Brouwer, PP (1)
Winnipeg Goals: Kane (1), Kosmachuk (1), Kane (2)
A scary moment early on as Alexander Ovechkin was basically force-fed the stick of Winnipeg rookie Ben Chiarot on a dump-in follow through. A bloody Ovechkin went back to the dressing room, but returned to the ice before the 4-minute power play expired. No serious damage, but still not something you want to see in a preseason game.
The Washington Capitals have announced that they have re-signed defenseman Karl Alzner to a 4-year contract. The contract is worth $11.2 million, with an annual cap hit of $2.8 million. With Alzner back under contract, it leaves Marcus Johansson as the only major RFA left to sign. With around $5.6 million left in cap space, Johansson should be extended shortly.
As much as people, myself included, point to the importance of the Capitals finding a second-line center, re-signing Alzner was just as important. Even if re-signing RFAs has become little more than a formality, it’s still nice to see one less thing for the Caps to worry about. He has shown himself to be the most consistent blueliner the Caps have and, at 24, is just entering the prime of his career. The stability he brought to the top pairing was a huge reason for Mike Green rediscovering his form, aside from Green simply being healthy. I’d imagine he will see most of his time this season again with Green.
With Alzner back in the fold, it leaves the Capitals with 8 blueliners capable of contributing at the NHL level, although only Green, Alzner, and Carlson would be described as top-4 quality. With the lack of options on the free agency market, the Caps should strongly consider trying to put together some package (with maybe a Jason Chimera or even Michal Neuvirth) for a true top-4 defenseman. What is the future for Dmitri Orlov? Can we really expect Steven Oleksy to contribute like he did last year? Hopefully, the Jeff Schultz buyout taught them when to move a guy.
It was just over a year ago that George McPhee finally got what he had been looking for. In trading Cody Eakin and a second-round pick to Dallas, he ended his search for a legitimate second-line center. Mike Ribeiro was pretty much everything the Capitals had been looking for since Fedorov retired. And unlike the previous experiment with the likes of Brendan Morrison, Ribeiro actually produced. Through the first quarter of the season, Ribeiro was arguably the only Capital producing, to the point where he actually usurped the first-line center role away from Nicklas Backstrom. When the rest of the team finally awoke from their lockout slumber, Ribeiro settled nicely into that second line, helping Troy Brouwer surpass his goal total from last year.
Yet here we are. A place we all knew was coming. It had been clear since the trade deadline that Mike Ribeiro wanted that “last contract”. At 33 years of age, he was looking for a team who was willing to give him at least 4 years, with a decent salary to boot. With the salary cap dropping a substantial amount next season, the Capitals appeared unable to give Ribeiro what he wanted. Both sides had been talking extensively lately, but to no avail as Renaud Lavoie has reported that the Capitals will allow Ribeiro to hit the free agent market come this Friday.
So, here we are again. One year later, and no second-line center. Here are some of the options the Capitals have with regard to filling Ribeiro’s void.
Note: This post was written in complete and total anger. It very well might be nothing more than the babbling of a mad man. After I’ve cooled off, I’ll post a more levelheaded review.
I don’t know why I let myself buy into this. For 90% of the season, I firmly believed this team was not a Stanley Cup team. When they made the move for Erat (don’t get me started on that again), I said it made no sense for a non-contender team to make that move. And yet, here I am. Sitting in complete disgust after they laid a massive egg against the Rangers in Game 7. Disgust at the product I just saw on the ice and that I was dumb enough to buy it.
Every Cap fan knew that we would see a different Ranger team now that the series has shifted to New York. The Ranger offense had been so anemic that, logically, it could only improve. The question would only be whether or not the Capitals could continue their defensive success. The answer, as we learned last night, was not what we would have hoped.
Prior to the game, Braden Holtby voices some of his concerns with the Capitals being “too loose” going into Game 3. Ten minutes into the game, it seemed his concerns were unfounded. The Caps had already killed off yet another Ranger power play and were already up 1-0 thanks to Nicklas Backstrom. But then, the looseness seemed to arise. And sure enough, Brian Boyle leveled the scoring as a Ranger power play expired. A power play that the Caps had effectively limited.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here we are, a little over a month removed from the Capitals exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Despite not playing, the Capitals have had one of the busier Junes. We immediately learned of Dale Hunter’s decision to not return as head coach next season, instead returning to London. Then we had the word from Alexander Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, made it very clear that Alex would be heading to free agency. Of course, this claim was later refuted by Semin, but who knows with them Russians. Add in the decision to not offer contract renewals to Jeff Halpern and Mike Knuble, and the Capitals have set themselves up for one of the busiest summers in recent years.
To be fair, none of the events within the past month should have come as huge surprises. We all knew that despite being one win away from the Conference Finals, there was not a whole lot of happiness with the way this season transpired. When teams that should be dominating falter, massive shake-ups are quite common. We all remember what happened in Philadelphia last summer with Carter and Richards. The issue now is whether the Capitals choose to continue to invest in their previous draft classes or they go all out in free agency.
For the 3rd time in the past 4 years, the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In both of the previous 2 series, the Capitals and Rangers met in the first round of the playoffs, with the Capitals advancing on both occasions. This time around the two will meet having already advanced past the first round and, more importantly, the Rangers will be the ones with the home ice advantage. Here’s a quick look at what each team did in the regular season to get here. Parentheses note league rank.
Last night, after having stolen home ice from the Bruins via a 2-1 2OT win on Saturday, the Capitals fell to the Bruins in Game 3 4-3. Zdeno Chara gave the visitors the game winner with just under 2 minutes to go. To make the sting all that much worst, Chara’s point shot found its way in via the blade of Roman Hamrlik’s stick as he attempted to clear some traffic in front. The Caps may have finally found some of the offense that they were lacking in game one, but they have lost the discipline.
We all knew the Bruins would be coming into D.C. looking to get the Caps off their games. What was a potent offense in the regular season had been choked out by Dale Hunter’s defense-first style in the first 2 games. It was clearly not in their gameplan to be heading to D.C. with their only goals coming from Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. All that frustration finally went and flipped the switch on Milan Lucic, who made it his goal to disrupt the discipline of the Caps as much as he possibly could. Oh, it worked, big time. Lucic would end up making 3 trips to the box for extracurricular, but he made sure to take a Cap with him each time.
While it may have been in doubt during the closing weeks of the regular season, the Capitals do begin a playoff series tonight against the 2nd ranked Boston Bruins. While this will mark the 5th consecutive year that the Capitals will be a part of the playoffs, it is the first time since 2003 that they will enter the playoffs as a lower seed. That time around the Capitals were unable to hold onto a 2-0 game lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and eventually bowed out in 6 games, thanks to a Martin St. Louis triple overtime goal at the MCI Center. An interesting note, 10 players who suited up for Tampa in that series still play in the NHL, while only Jeff Halpern and Dainus Zubrus remain of the Capitals’ players.
This time around the Capitals have the daunting task of trying to dispatch the defending Stanley Cup champs. Here is just a quick stat comparison of the teams and respective leaders. Parentheses note rank in league.
Just as it seemed that the Washington Capitals were about to shut the door on the Buffalo Sabres, they let them right back in via a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. Despite a late tying goal from Jason Chimera, his 20th of the season, the Caps were unable to hold off the Lightning as Steven Stamkos scored his 57th of the year with just over 2:00 remaining in the 3rd period. Stamkos would later pot his 58th in a vacated net. While it may not have been giving up a 2-goal lead, this game continued to show the lack of confidence the Washington Capitals have in themselves.
Look, we all need to hit the road sometimes. Whether it is business, holidays, or a simple getaway, we all are forced to leave the comfy confines of our home at some point. The Washington Capitals know this better than anyone, as they find themselves on the road quite a bit. Always the considerate bunch, they have decided to help out in the designing of some equipment that is a must-have for the person on the go.
The Capitals Road Pillow
Last night, the Capitals fell 3-2 in Winnipeg. Even just watching it on television, you could get a sense of how intense the game was. The 15,000+ fans in the MTS Centre only added to this feel, who made it hard to hear Joe B at times. In the past, it has been like these games that has caused Ovechkin to elevate his game to a dominating pace. What we saw Saturday, though, was a player who lacked any sense of purpose.
Everything was in place to light a fire under Ovechkin. It was an intensely physical game, in Canada, with the entire crowd booing him every time he had the puck. In the third period, there appeared to be a perfect time for Ovechkin to put in a classic rush, eventually putting the puck behind Pavelec. He gathered the puck, sped down the right wing side, and only had Grant Clitsome standing between him and jumping into the glass. Clitsome was a late round (271st overall) 2004 draft pick of the Blue Jackets. Prior to this season, he played just 42 games for the Blue Jackets and eventually was picked off of waivers by the Jets. These are the types of guys that a fired-up Ovechkin leaves in his wake. Instead, we watched as Ovechkin was sent face-first to the ice by a well-placed hip check. He simply got back up and skated out of the zone, as the fans jeered him and cheered Clitsome.
Today had all the makings of a busy day for the Washington Capitals. Currently sitting in 9th place, the Caps looked primed to make a move that could push them into the playoffs. This though process seemed reinforced as they started off the day by placing Nicklas Backstrom on LTIR, effectively taking his $6+ million cap hit off the books for the remainder of the season. This turned out to be all for naught, as the trade deadline has come and gone without the Capitals making one move.
The Capitals appeared to be in the market for a quality center who could help the Capitals fill the hole left by Nicklas Backstrom. They also seemed to have quite a few pieces that were expendable. Over the past couple of weeks, we have watched as players like Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik found their way into Hunter’s doghouse, and seemed to be important factors in bringing in that coveted center. The Capitals also had lucrative young players, like Cody Eakin and Matthieu Perreault who could have helped sweeten the deal. Instead, the Capitals will now be forced to fight their way into the playoffs with a team that struggles to win consistently, or on the road.
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.
Last spring, the NHL watched as Joel Ward, a defense-first power forward, had a bit of a coming-out party in the playoffs. Despite being averaging less than a half of a point a game, Ward led his Nashville Predators with 7 goals and 6 assists while averaging over 20 minutes per game (he only averaged 17 in regular season). With the Capitals having seen their offence dry up in the post season, specifically the likes of Alex Semin and Mike Green, George McPhee was keen to spend money, if it meant getting more goals in the postseason. With Ward taking offers from several angles, McPhee admittedly overpaid for the winger.
Yesterday, Brendan Shanahan certainly had an interesting day. He had 2 disciplinary hearings scheduled regarding 2 incidents in the same game. To make matters more interesting, the victim of one of the incidents was the transgressor in the other. The result of these hearings? Alexander Ovechkin suspended 3 games for charging Zbynek Michalek, while Michalek received no further punishment for his elbow to the back of the head of Matt Hendricks. To me, this is one of the weirdest decisions rendered by Shanahan this year.
Before I get into this, I do want to state that I think that Shanahan has done a good job this season. I think that compared to the baffling decisions by Colin Campbell over the last years, Shanahan’s no-nonsense approach and his detailed videos have been a god-send. Also, take a moment to check out both videos.
Over the past 11 games, the Capitals are 8-3. In that span, they have outscored their opponents by a combined 28-22, limiting their opponents to a goal or less 6 times. In 7 of their 8 wins, their opponents have scored below their average. All of this points to a team that is finding its stride defensively. The caveat to this appears to be a team that’s offensive production is faltering.
As it stands right now, the Washington Capitals are currently ranked 9th in goals/game, averaging just over 2.8 goals. Most fans should agree that 9th is a pretty good place to be. The issue is at shots/game. For the season the Caps sit at 26th in the league in shots/game, averaging 27.6 a night. That would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that they are averaging less than 22 per night over the last 11 games. This includes a current 2-game stretch of recording less than 20 shots. They have hit 30 shots just once in the past 11 games, in the 5-2 loss to the Sharks. They are currently giving up over 10 more shots than they are taking, although much of those are coming late in the 3rd, with the Caps protecting a lead.
What this all creates is a paradox. We are watching a team regularly succeed, without taking shots. How big of a problem is this? Looking at their last 11 opponents, we see only 4 current playoff teams, 2 of whom to the Capitals lost.
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.
Last Tuesday, Capitals fans everywhere were delighted with the return of Mike Green, after missing 23 consecutive games with a groin injury. An injury that, supposedly, might never fully heal. Midway through Green second game back (@SJ 1/7/12), Hunter shut him down again. Hunter said it was because of tightness, and not a hit he took, but it does little to dispel my worries. Green did not practice with the team on Sunday.
It might only be January, but it is worth reminding that Green is currently in the last year of his deal. A deal that sees him make 5.25 million. Given some of the current contracts, that number was expected to increase dramatically. Since 2008, when Green signed his current deal, we have seen many comparable blueliners sign contracts worth North of 7 million annually. Most recently, Buffalo gave Christian Ehrhoff a deal that gave him 10 mil for the first season. Most fans would have been more than happy to give Green this raise. He is one of the most popular players on this team, and most would probably be in favor of unloading Alex Semin, if it meant that Green would stay.