A Plea to the Washington Capitals: Stay Out of the Sin Bin

Jennifer JohnsonAnalyst IJanuary 30, 2009

Washington Capitals goalie Jose Theodore made some of the most spectacular saves I have ever seen during the team’s 3-2 OT loss in Boston on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately for him, Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas was wicked good between the posts, too.

Hockey games contain physical play, but this duel was reminiscent of a chess game.

As both teams traded offensive scoring chances, it was clear that the final scene would be a dramatic one.

With 3:05 left in overtime, Bruins forward David Krejci slapped a bank shot off of Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn’s leg for the game-winning tally.

Eastern Conference-leading Boston (39-8-5, 75 points) earned two more points to increase its lead over the second-place Washington (30-15-4) to 11 points.

Two out of the three goals scored by the Bruins were earned while a man to the good.

If the Capitals want to get serious about challenging Boston for the conference lead, and possibly for Lord Stanley’s Cup, then they have to protect whoever is in net, with better defense.

For the last 15 games, steady defenseman Tom Poti has been sidelined with an injured groin.

And the Capitals' checking line has suffered without their first mate.

The road does not get any easier for the upstart good guys in red, as they travel to Detroit to battle the Red Wings on Saturday.

Power play opportunities have been mounting for opposing teams.

The Capitals have amassed the most minor penalties in the NHL through 49 games played (244).

Coach Bruce Boudreau promised “captive” reporters in a pregame interview that his team would be more disciplined, and that the road record would improve once it settled into a set lineup.

Boudreau’s words after the Boston game highlighted the problems within his penalty killing unit.

“When you’ve got one of the best power plays in the league,” Boudreau said of the Bruins' third-ranked unit, and you get two minutes of four-on-three, it’s tough to stop.”

The Capitals' penalty kill unit has also yielded a power play goal in nine straight games.

That gives them the 24th-ranked unit in the league on 78.5 percent effectiveness.

For all the talk about the Capitals' deficiencies in goal, I believe the Capitals have forgotten to play with a sense of urgency.

I have noticed once they start an offensive sequence, there’s at least three men rushing into the opponent’s zone which leaves one enforcer to protect the goalie from odd-man rush opportunities.

Lately, it has been poor puck handling that has interfered with their ability to stay out of the penalty box.

Coach Boudreau has noticed this disturbing trend, too.

“The guys are trying so hard, but things just aren’t working,” said Boudreau. “Pucks are bouncing off of skates.  It seems like that happens once a game.  That’s not an exaggeration.”

The worst thing the Caps can do is settle for the dump-and-chase offense to overcompensate for shoddy defense.

I also want the Capitals to pass the puck some more instead of taking ill-advised one-timers.

Of course, you cannot wait around for the perfect shot either.

You have to attack the opponent’s weaknesses when you can.

Boston goalie Tim Thomas stopped 36 shots between the second and third period, so there is evidence to prove that the Capitals know how to bring the pressure.

Right after an eye-popping save by Thomas, on a rocket blast off of Alexander Ovechkin’s stick, leading assist man Nicklas Backstrom was found guilty of hooking 6'9" behemoth Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara.

Washington is by no means “in the weeds.”

There is an abundance of pure talent on this year’s squad.

I believe in them.

Jose Theodore is up for the challenge that the Detroit Red Wings will extend come Saturday afternoon.

The question remains, will his defense rise to the occasion with him?


Alexander Ovechkin (shoulder) and Tom Poti (groin) both participated in 3-on-3 scrimmages that the Capitals held on an outdoor rink Thursday night.

Poti, out since Dec. 20, will be in the starting lineup on the Capitals’ checking line versus Detroit.

Ovechkin, who is leading the NHL in goals scored, suffered a stinger in Tuesday’s tussle with the Bruins, but is also expected to be ready for the game against the Red Wings.


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