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Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals: Don’t Panic, It’s Just A Little Slump

Washington Capitals Some Caps fans may be getting a little anxious about their team right now, with the team on a four-game losing streak, hitting a new low Thursday night after being shutout 3-0 at the Verizon Center by the bottom-of-the-division Florida Panthers. It’s the culmination of a run of really poor form, with the offense in particular failing to produce the hockey they’re capable of.

Surprisingly, the slump has come as Alex Ovechkin broke his 9-game scoring drought. Not so surprisingly, the losing streak, which ended a four-game winning streak, has coincided with the Capitals trading Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Scott Hannan. Last week I praised the move. Whilst it has, similar to many other trades in recent Washington Capitals history, seemed to have had an adverse effect on the team’s form, I still stand by GM George McPhee’s decision. Especially after top-line d-man Jeff Schultz has been ruled out for at least a month with a broken finger, pushing Hannan straight up to the top line with Mike Green. I think this trade was the key reason for this slump of the Caps. Flash has been with this team for a few years now, moving up from Hershey along with Bruce Boudreau and a number of current roster-members. Losing a teammate will always change things up for a team, and it could take a few games for the team to adjust, especially as it was not a direct change, but a forward leaving for a defender.

Now I’m not saying there’s no reason to worry. It’s not like the opposition teams have been playing absolutely incredibly in the Caps’ losses. Of course, it’s worrying that the Capitals have been poor of late. However we need to put this in perspective. Throughout the course of the season, there will be many different dips and peaks in form for a team. Last year the Capitals managed a 14-game winning streak in January/February time, and the lineup has not changed much since that time, certainly not in a significant way. We all know what the like of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Green are all capable of. We have seen it from them this season. Many in the hockey world will look at Ovechkin’s lack of goal-production, but not only has this been compensated for by Ovechkin himself, in notching 23 assists, but also by Alex Semin, who has stepped up with 18 goals. Whilst the offensive production is not on a par with the firepower shown last season, it’s hard to be disappointed in a team for not matching the ridiculous goal-scoring pace of the Capitals last season. It’s true, I don’t think we’ve seen the best from the Caps top stars yet this season, but in the current streak, they haven’t played significantly worse than earlier in the year.

The main problem, as I see it, is the lower lines. The rotation system employed by Bruce Boudreau, whilst important to keep everyone amongst the bottom six fresh, I think has meant there isn’t much chemistry in the third and fourth lines. When given a few games to settle, the third line combo of Chimera, Johansson and Fehr started to show some spark. But lately Fehr was a healthy scratch and there wasn’t much coming from the other two. There has been little sign of good communication between linemates on these lines, and we haven’t seen the kind of coordinated fore-checking that had brought so many scoring chances and so much praise from the coaches. As much as I like it when DJ King is in the lineup, for the added protection he brings, it seems that he doesn’t add much to the lineup, especially with Matt Bradley already filling a similar role in the team. Yet more skilled forwards like Fehr are sitting out to allow King ice-time. We may well see the benefits of the rotation system in the latter stages of the season and going into the post-season, but there is plenty of time before that, and right now, the main concern must be getting points.

The current funk exposes some problems with the Capitals setup, but Caps fans need not panic yet; this team has the ability to turn things around, and before you know it they could be in a long winning streak.

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One comment for “Washington Capitals: Don’t Panic, It’s Just A Little Slump”

  1. Last year the talk was that the West was the conference to beat (and in the end it turned out that way). Given the way your Caps and the Pens have been playing it looks more like the East is the conference to beat, with those two teams leading the way.

    Posted by sharksfanNo Gravatar | December 11, 2010, 5:12 pm

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