The Washington Capitals' record is 3-3-1 heading into tonight’s non-conference duel with the Dallas Stars. The Caps’ scoring attack has gone silent in the past two games, leading to back-to-back road losses against the Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes. In both of these tussles, the Capitals scored first.
Brooks Laich, a standout player in last year’s first round playoff series against the Flyers, has been a steady enforcer and is making the most out of his ice time so far this season. He netted the opening goal in Phoenix on a nifty assist from Alex Semin, as the Caps celebrated another perfectly executed even strength assault. So what’s the problem for the other 40 minutes of the hockey game? Why are some guys persistent and others content to dump and run?
Gabby (Coach Boudreau) has seen his top goal scorer, and fan favorite, Alex Ovechkin score just two goals through seven games this season. The Great No. 8 has logged an impressive 37 shots, but isn’t finding the scoring lanes as open as he did a year ago. What the Caps have to be careful not to do is depend on Ovie to create opportunities where none exist. Too often I have seen him try to take on the opponent’s defense by himself. That has led to him losing the puck, and it has resulted in several odd man rushes for the other team.
Taking shots from the blue line is something teams do when they want to change it up. And yet the Caps seem to do it when they could be generating a scoring threat by heading up the ice with crisp passing. Playing not to lose is a characteristic of Pre-Boudreau hockey.
With his puck-handling defenseman schemes, shots should be coming at warp speed. And it’s notable to point out that defenseman Mike Green is the Capitals' second-leading scorer with four goals and two assists, with 30 shots on goal. That’s fine production from most centers in the NHL, so that’s a positive exception to this maddening drought the Caps are mired in. The Caps feed off his energy, and his talent is vaulting the red white and blue from pretender to contender.
Injuries do their part to wreak havoc when a team is struggling to find the net, and the Caps have a few that have tinkered with the chemistry that has been building between their lines. The top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom (55 assists last year), and Viktor Kozlov hasn’t had the ice time needed to keep the Caps gelling.
Kozlov injured his knee and has been out for four games, forcing Coach B to shuffle his lineup, game to game.
“Guys are banged up a bit, but we have Brash back and I don’t expect Kozzie to be out much longer," Boudreau said. "So we’ll see where we are at after the weekend.”
It would be a mistake to change his run-and-gun coaching style, and go into panic mode. After all, there are 74 games left for the Caps to prove they want to add another Southeastern Conference title banner to their championship collection.
In order to do that they must be opportunistic, but also patient. Go back to fundamental hockey, and practice passing from the center to the point, and shoot when given the chance. During this slump, the players have treated the puck like it is an IED, and it going to blow in two seconds, or they guide their passes like the puck is made of sand.
Let it rip, fellas. You just might find out that it’s better to be lucky than safe.
Team offense starts tonight boys. When the puck drops, be ready to go, go, go. Bring the fans back to cheering instead of jeering.
Make Dallas see stars.