Happy Tuesday, family! As this most odious of weekdays dawns let us take a moment to remember that hockey is being played, that there is no lockout, and that life is good. Amen.
Now, when we last met, the Caps had a four-game week ahead of them, with divisional standings at stake. Let’s take a look at the Quick Takes from the past week.
QUICK TAKES: Last Week: 2-1-1
NY Islanders - Win 6-2: Good old-fashioned fire wagon Caps hockey. Ovechkin had two goals and Tom Wilson got his first goal, plus that magnificent Butt Assist ™. And as Twitter follower @EvBenjamin put it, “Butt assists are always the most appreciated.”
Minnesota Wild – Win 3-2 (SO): I don’t hardly remember this game. I do remember Backstrom had a wicked shootout winner because he’s America’s Swedeheart.
Phoenix Coyotes – Loss 4-3 (SO): That comeback! Up 3-1 with scant minutes remaining, I left the room to fix myself a Red Stag and Dr. Pepper (I call it “Dr. Pepper and Mr. Stag”), only to return several dozen seconds later and find our lead squandered, like so many unused Ribiero puns. You hate to lose a point this way.
Colorado Avalanche – Loss 4-1 : This one was just ugly start to finish. The Avs are now 14-2 on the year, so there’s no shame in losing to a really good team, but you won’t win many giving up four goals.
Caught up now, let’s turn to the week ahead and take a look at what to keep an eye on:
You Just Had to Feel Special: PPs and PKs
Currently, the Capitals have the top-ranked power play and the second-ranked penalty kill in the league. Like a good menage-a-trois, we’re great with one man extra or less, but can’t figure things out at even strength. The three-headed powerplay monster of Backstom-Green-Ovechkin is terrorizing the countryside like a Hydra in heat, and the penalty kill is shutting down interlopers faster than a chastity belt.
Our defensive problem at even strength comes down to this: we don’t keep our house tidy. That is, we allow way too much junk to accumulate on our doorstep, and lots of junk goals get stuffed in. On the penalty kill that’s less of an issue, because all you have to do is see puck, clear puck. At even strength, a loose puck on the doorstep has to either be firmly knocked away (but not too far!), moved to a teammate, or skated away. With icing in effect and a breakout possible, indecision can handcuff defensemen long enough to let a forward stuff in a sneaky one. Look for quick, crisp moves to clear the puck away from the net.
YOU Get a Contract! And YOU Get a Contract! Everybody Who Plays Well Gets a Contract!
Don’t you love it when a good thing lasts? Well unlike pumpkin spice lattes, the McRib, and weather-too-cold-for-freaking-bugs, the Caps’ top producers will be around for a while. With the exception of Mikhail Grabovksi, whom the Caps picked up in the offseason for a song and a heartfelt compliment, all of the top six point producers are signed through the end of next season, at least.
MoJo and Joel Ward are here through the ’15 campaign, Jason Chimera just got payyedd and is here through ’16, and Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be Capitals until the Sun’s core runs out of hydrogen to fuse into helium and it collapses under the unfathomable weight of its own gravity, blowing off heavy metal elements and dimming to a faint glimmer as a white dwarf (through the end of the 2021 season).
So get comfortable, because this core, unlike the Sun’s, could be around for a while.
18 and Over Only: The Magic Number
Look, our defense at even strength isn’t any good. So like a rich guy with a little “ego” or a dumb bro with a big truck, what do you do? Compensate! That’s right, I’m talking Boudrea-era Caps hockey: offensive-centic and smeared with mayo. The Caps have scored five, six, or seven goals in half of their wins this year, continuing the legacy of “Score So Many They Can’t Beat You” hockey that has worked for literally no team ever.
What is interesting, however, is the distribution of that scoring. The Capitals have five players on pace to score eighteen goals or more this season (Ovechkin, Backstrom, Grabovski, Ward, Chimera). Most teams that enjoy post-season success have a similar distribution of their goals: roughly five players at or over eighteen goals, with a superstar leading the charge.
Looking back at the last four Cup winners of full-length seasons, we see the same pattern. The 2012 Kings had four players with 18+, led by Anze Kopitar. The 2011 Bruins had five, led by Goon Squad president Milan Lucic. The 2010 Blackhawks had seven, led by Patrick Kane, and the 2009 Penguins had four, led by Evgeni “Dude Where’s My Browline” Malkin. This five-spoked offensive is a winning formula, but we’ll see if the Caps can sustain it for more than a quarter of the season.
And with that, let’s now go ahead and turn to a segment that Toronto mayor Rob Ford called, “that good shit:”
LIABLE TO LIBEL: A BAKER’S DOZEN LIES ABOUT THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
1. After working all night and pooling their collective corn-fed intellects, the fine folk of central Ohio came up with the following cheeky nickname for Bobrovsky, their goalie: Bob the Goalie.
2. No, Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson will not sing you “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing.”
3. Winger Marian Gaborik thought that “being traded to the Blue Jackets” meant the Rangers were wearing their third jerseys that night. He was horribly, horribly wrong.
4. The Blue Jackets have the third highest sporting attendence in the Columbus metropolitan area, just behind the weekly Wart-Out ™ No Bull Tractor Pull, and seven homeless guys playing hackey-sack behind a Big Lots.
5. Detroit leads the nation per capita in lying about being from Detroit.
6. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg think they’re the cuter Russian-Swede superstar pairing but they totally have no idea and like seriously anyone in the entire school would agree.
7. Todd Bertuzzi absolutely did not cripple a defenseless fellow player with a sucker punch to the head in 2004 and is an all-around swell guy and pillar of the community.
8. Daniel Alfredsson, unlike the City of Detroit, can still get credit for his goals.
9. Goalie Jimmy Howard was named to the Detroit City Council in July, in that hopes that, “at least someone can save something around here.”
10. The St. Louis Blues have reached the high plateau of being the best professional hockey team in Missouri.
11. Blues center Derek Roy and Avalanche coach Patrick Roy are both active in internet forums debating the proper pronunciation of their last names.
12. Contrary to popular belief, the St. Louis Blues are not named after the city’s rich music history, but rather the feeling people get when they come to St. Louis.
13. Winger Magnus Pääjärvi is half man, half umlaut.
Well, that about wraps it up from here. May all your calls to Toronto go your way and all your zone clearances deflect off the glass first. And as always, goodnight, good luck, and Go Caps.