Alexander Semin and Home Cookin'

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 11: Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals skates along the glass against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on November 11, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

With just eight points in 15 games, there is a very simple explanation for Semin's slow start: responsibility. Semin is being asked to do less offensively and more defensively, and opposing teams have been keying on Semin and linemate Marcus Johansson as a weak point to get some goals in. Whenever the Capitals are on the road, opposing coaches have been rolling their top offensive line against Semin whenever possible. At home, where coach Bruce Boudreau gets last change, Semin is being protected from the opponents' top line. The results are clear: In eight home games, Semin has six points and a plus-4. In seven road games, Semin has two points and a minus-5. - Sean Allen, ESPN.com

It's no secret that Alexander Semin has had a rough go of it over the first month of the season, scoring just three goals and adding five helpers in 15 games, the last couple of which have found him in and out of the Doggy Dacha. No one has an answer for why things have gone sideways, though everyone from the coach to the player to the pundits to the fans no doubt has a theory.

And most of those theories are wrong.

Take, for example, Mr. Allen's assertion above. It's an interesting narrative, but it's one that's unsupported by the facts. Let's dissect it a bit...

Semin is being asked to do less offensively and more defensively

Semin and Johansson do have the highest QualComp among Caps forwards at five-aside, but middling Corsi Rel QoCs and some of the easiest zone starts on the team. Semin also has a grand total of 15 seconds of shorthanded ice time so far this season. The numbers confirm what you already knew: the claim that Semin is being asked to do less offensively and more defensively doesn't pass the sniff test.

opposing teams have been keying on Semin and linemate Marcus Johansson as a weak point to get some goals in. Whenever the Capitals are on the road, opposing coaches have been rolling their top offensive line against Semin whenever possible. At home, where coach Bruce Boudreau gets last change, Semin is being protected from the opponents' top line. The results are clear: In eight home games, Semin has six points and a plus-4. In seven road games, Semin has two points and a minus-5.

Y'know, I wanted this to be true, as at would at least provide a partial explanation for Semin's slow start and offer an opportunity for adjustments. Alas, reality doesn't support the conclusion, no matter how convenient it would be with the correlation in the home/road splits. Here's a quick look at the Caps' road opponents' top players and the even-strength minutes they played against Semin versus Ovechkin and Laich (as representatives of the Caps' other top-three lines; click on the opposing player's name for that game's head-to-head sheet):

Player vs. Semin vs. Ovechkin vs. Laich
Evgeni Malkin 3.6 0.2 6.4
Claude Giroux 2.9 2.5 4.3
Taylor Hall 5.6 1.5 0.8
Henrik Sedin 4.2 5.8 5.0
Eric Staal 0.7 3.2 5.2
John Tavares 5.6 4.2 5.9
Zach Parise 1.4 5.8 5.1

Other than Edmonton (who has fed Hall the softest minutes imaginable), it doesn't appear as if anyone was waiting around to throw their top lines out against Alex Semin. Granted, Allen did note that Semin was targeted "whenever possible," but he also notes that Boudreau has tried to hide Semin at home. And while we wouldn't necessarily argue with him on that point (despite it being more about protecting Johansson and making wise decisions on match-ups and zone starts - not too many coaches throw their second lines out against opponents' top lines when they have a strong shutdown line and a very good top line), one wonders what Allen would say about the fact that Boudreau used Semin more against Parise than against any other forward on Saturday night in D.C.

Alexander Semin is an elite talent. He can probably score on any ice rink on the planet and against any opponent on any given night. He can also be held in check anywhere. He's been better, in his career, at home than on the road... but so has his team. And there's no reason to think that the struggles he's had so far in 2011-12 have anything to do with whether he's wearing a red or white sweater at puck drop.

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