Capitals need a wake-up call
Alex Ovechkin needs to lead the charge in Washington if the Caps want to make
up any ground this season.
NEW YORK, NY -- It's difficult to gauge where a team will be standing
come the final puck drop of the regular season, but through the first
month of the 2013 campaign, a few teams have separated themselves from
And with time running short, the window for improvement is closing
The Washington Capitals have been grabbing negative headlines and
pieces about firing first-year head coach Adam Oates, thus far.
Through 11 games, the Capitals have managed a meager five points
leaving them in sole possession of last place in the NHL. Things can
change quickly of course with a few more quick wins and back-to-back
losses by one of the several teams standing ahead of them, but with
the way the team had played its beginning to seem unlikely.
Alex Ovechkin, once promoted as a rival to Pittsburgh Penguins
superstar Sidney Crosby, and the face of a resurgent Capitals team
that seemed to be able to score at will, has struggled on the ice and
even earned himself the prestigious linemates of Joey Crabb and Jay
Beagle. An experiment that well, didn't work, because he was playing
with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
The team has struggled so far and seems to fall apart when they play
shifts to their end.
"We can't start leaking oil," Oates said after a morning practice
following to team's 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh last week.
"That's part of being a pro. You have to fight through that and you
have to learn from that."
A look at some statistics provides another trouble look at the team
has performed through the first 11 games.
Currently, Washington ranks third in five on five shooting percentage.
The statistic is not incredibly indicative of team success and shows
that perhaps a little bit more luck could be a reason that the
Capitals have even managed two wins so far. Several guys are
outperforming their career shooting percentage by leaps and bounds.
Of course you can't measure heart with statistics but you can measure
it with a piece of string and a ruler. You can, however, use
statistics to help measure a team's on-ice performance.
It does work both ways with the Capitals towards the bottom of the
league in even strength shooting percentage against. That does have a
large amount to do the team's wretched goaltending thus far.
When the team shipped Semyon Varlamov west to Colorado, the emergence
of Michael Neuvirth helped make that decision a little easier for GM
George McPhee. And as a bonus, Brayden Holtby emerged to play an
incredible playoff series against the powerhouse Boston Bruins and a
New York Ranger team they eventually would fall to.
Both young netminders have played some forgettable hockey, capped off
with the quick hook of Neuvirth in the 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Several members of the organization have blamed the overall lack of
discipline for the slow start, which is usually an easy thing to do
because it's quite fixable and something that needs to trickle down
through the organization. Blaming a problem that can be easily
corrected is a nice way to mask larger problems with the roster.
"The issue with our club right now is all of these penalties we're
taking... it's too hard on the goaltenders and it's too hard on the
team," McPhee explained to the media after practice.
"I don't think it's system related or anything. I think it's just a
lack of discipline."
The Capitals have the fourth-worst five-on-five goals
for/goals-against ratio in the NHL. The problems are deeper than
taking too many penalties. They sit at the bottom with the likes of
Columbus and Florida, two teams that have also struggled mightily this
McPhee has said at this point he will not blow the team up, which
granted has not stopped the whirlwind of trade rumors that have
circled the club. They have been associated with Roberto Luongo in the
early weeks of the season and some have advocated trading Ovechkin.
Ovechkin carries a cap hit of slightly over $9.5 million and is signed
through the 2020-21 season. He will be playing in the nation's capital
for the foreseeable future unless Paul Holmgren gets bored or the CBA
just randomly radically changes.
Instead, a few things will need to go the way of the Capitals for them
to right the ship. They need to suffocate teams into giving up more chances
by possessing the puck significantly more. They need to take a lot
more shots on goal, especially Ovechkin, who needs to put himself into
position to receive the puck to take shots. And they need a little
luck to go their way.
And while McPhee assured the media the other day that he won't blow
the team up, if they continue to struggled it might be time to take
the team in another direction.
Of course they have a lot of hockey to
play before that bridge needs to be crossed. This could just be a
situation of a team learning a new system, although Washington brass
has assured the media and fans that the team learned the system