This season has been bad. Obviously, a well-documented fact. But how bad? On the flip side, how good? Undoubtedly, some aspects of the Caps have up and gone with Bruce Boudreau. Alternatively, some previously unknown sides of the Caps have flourished under Dale Hunter's reign. This is a personal rating of the various aspects of the Caps' game from my perspective, with much-appreciated input from a few other Rinkers (timmyv38, bigonetimer, alex_k), on a scale of 1-10, 1 being atrocious, and 10 being Gretzky-esque. My hockey IQ isn't the best, and this is my first FanPost, so if there's anything you disagree on, post it in the comments!
1. Penalty Kill- 6.5: Dale Hunter was viewed as a defense-first guy, no? Some aspects of his personality and coaching style have emerged in the Caps as they -suffer- work under his reign. Man-on-man defense has been a key point on the PK and in fending off opposition's cycles in Hunter's style. However, this style requires much athleticism and focus, and has been known to break down at times, mostly because players can't or don't stay with and cover their man.
2. Power Play- 4: This has not been a strong suit for the Caps, at all, during the past two seasons. Much of it stems from not being able to retrieve pucks effectively from a dump-in, even during positive-man situations. Even if they are able to effectively start a cycle, more often than not, it is broken either by themselves, or a poke-checking defender, all because of poor passing and puck management.
3. Even-Strength Play- 6: This has been an enigma. One game, they have no heart, losing every puck battle they find themselves in, falling off and failing to cover their man, not setting one foot in front of the goalie's line of sight, and just plain being outworked by the opposition. The next game, they forecheck and backcheck with fiery skates, annoy goalies with incessant screening, win puck battles routinely, and make crisp passes through scrambling defense. As has been a problem for the past few seasons, the Caps are not a team known for their effective passing.
4. 4-on-4 Play- 7: One of the bright spots in the Caps' game, they have been above-average with reduced man situations. Maybe it's the open ice? The faster skating lanes? Clearer sight lines? I dunno.
5. Goaltending- 6: This is one part of the Caps' game that has not seen much turbulence. Yes, there have been some issues surrounding Michal Neuvirth and his play, but overall, he has been relatively solid this season. Tomas Vokoun has also been a reliable quarterback for the Capitals' play. If I was a betting man, I would wager that Neuvirth would be here in D.C. for a very long while.
6. Offense- 4.5: Scoring is down. Much down. Down. Downie. The two Alexes have been underperforming, Backstrom has been injured, Green has just now returned, and secondary scoring has been hard to come by. The Caps have shown lack of interest in the forecheck, and have had trouble mucking their way through the neutral zone. Lately though, the Alexes have stepped up, and forechecking is prevalent (mostly). Secondary scoring is still an issue, though.
7. Defense- 5.5: Backchecking. That is key. The Caps have shown lack of interest on the backcheck all season long (cough,cough, Ovechkin), and it has been hurting them. The Caps need to stay on the opponent's tails, dogging them, hampering their every move. Hunter's style of man-on-man defense Will it be tedious and exhausting? Of course. But that is the way to prevent goals against.
8. Prospects- 7: As proven by the past World Juniors, Washington has a powerful young player in Evgeny Kuznetsov, having scored 9 points in the whole tournament, only one behind Peter Forsberg. The recent injury to Kuznetsov has been worrying, though, and may have an impact on his play now and later, possibly in the NHL. Goaltending, I don't think, will be an issue. Braden Holtby was magnificent in his starts last season, and Phillip Grubauer's mentality and decision-making have been much-praised, notably by Olie Kolzig.
So what do you think? Are the Caps headed in the right direction? What do you think they need to work on the most?