A couple of wins, a couple of losses, a couple of hot hands, all in this week's Capital Ideas - discuss, debate, enjoy!
- For the first time since October 2011, the Caps have scored power play goals in five straight games, bringing their power play rate up to 25.5%. Perfect symbol of how nutty this season's been for special teams (and how small sample size does matter) - last year the best power play rate was Nashville's 21.6%; the year before, Vancouver hit 24.3%. This year? The Caps' 25.5% is fourth from the top, trailing Tampa's 27.4%, Pittsburgh's 28% and St. Louis' ridiculous 34%.
- Speaking of power play effectiveness, you have to kind of wonder why it took the Caps until road game #6 to get a win when they actually have been better with the extra man away from Verizon Center. Unless those pesky even-strength things actually matter or something. Madness.
- Last night's win was the team's first on the road, and while it's not the entire reason, one of the contributing factors could be the fact that the team is struggling in offensive zone face-offs away from Verizon Center. Even with a good performance in Florida (15-for-20), the team is 54-for-125 (43.2%) on the road; Nicklas Backstrom is 19-for-43 (6-for-8 last night) compared to 13-for-35 at home, Mike Ribeiro a stunningly bad 6-for-30 (4-for-7 last night) as opposed to 23-for-49 in DC. Worth noting that the improvement against the Cats in the overtime win did have an impact, as two offensive-zone wins led directly to goals by Alex Ovechkin and Karl Alzner.
- Better pass to set up a Troy Brouwer goal... Backstrom's perfectly-timed saucer to set up the OT game-winner in Sunrise, or Braden Holtby's heads-up pass three nights earlier?
- For a team to succeed, its stars have to play like stars - and while it's been a slow start for some, the tide seems to be turning, particularly where the captain is concerned. After just two points in his first six games, Ovechkin is now riding a five-game point streak, a three-game goal streak, has points in six of his last seven games and two multi-point games in his last three. He's also looked much more comfortable at right wing and has created some pretty nice opportunities for himself in that position.
- Not to be outdone, Ribeiro has points in his last five games and ten of his first thirteen as a Cap, goals in four of his last five (including three power play goals), and is tied with a couple of guys named Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby for fourth in the League's scoring race. His six multi-point games trails only Patrick Kane's seven as tops in the NHL. Here's hoping he's setting himself up for a new contract with the Caps and not just improving his deadline day trade value...
- I miss Alexander Semin as much as the next fan, but Ribeiro has replaced that production (and then some). Unless you wanted both Semin and Ribeiro, thus making some unsupported assumptions about the team's internal payroll, the problems with this team likely lie elsewhere.
- Somewhat related, there was a lot of (disgruntled) chatter among fans when Matt Hendricks got bumped up to the top line last night to play alongside Ribeiro and Ovechkin. Two things on that - first, in isolated instances it's not necessarily a bad thing to have a grinder-type guy alongside fancier players like Ribeiro and Ovechkin, and it even paid off as Hendricks cashed in with a goal; secondly, if and when Brooks Laich comes back you'd imagine that kind of a role goes to him.
- ...but yes, getting another top-six winger might not be a bad idea. Strange world when the Caps suddenly have a good one-two punch up the middle and not so much on the wings.
- Statistically speaking the Caps' chances at making the playoffs aren't looking too good, and it's fair to say that in a shortened season with tons of tight, extra-point games floating around, the uphill climb will be... well, uphill. Still, it's hard not to look up, see eighth place just five points out of reach (and first in the division just six points away) with thirty-five games left and think this team could still have a chance. They'll need to start gathering more points and quickly - and preferably without gifting them to the other team in the process - but the Caps don't seem out of this thing. Yet.
- You know what would help? Playing the Panthers thirty-five more times. Make it happen, NHL.
- Further to that point... as encouraging as the Caps' extremely modest two-game winning streak is, take a moment to recognize that the team's four wins on the season have come against the 10th-, 12th- and 13th-place teams in the Eastern Conference. Their combined record? 19-27-6 (counting Florida twice). The combined record of the teams to whom the Caps have lost so far? 57-36-8 (counting Pittsburgh twice). The Caps' next win against a team currently in playoff position or with a record above .500 will be their first. But hey, the winning had to start somewhere, right?
- Emotions are a funny, funny thing. Neither loss to the Penguins this year was as lopsided as the final score would make it seem, and save for a few flurries in each the Caps didn't look horribly outclassed (although those flurries would prove very costly and are the mark of a not-yet-good team). And yet... opponent matters. If you're like me, those two losses felt like twenty simply because of the logo on the other team's jersey.
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 1 - Alan May and Brendan Witt catch up on old times:
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 2 - Philly may be the city of brotherly love, but DC is the city of self-deprecating inferiority complexes:
@japersrink Thank you kindly...I do enjoy your quips. If you need advice on how to blog struggling, high-priced teams, let me know.— HogsHaven.com (@HogsHaven) February 8, 2013
@whitemooseranch time to start cracking heads with hockey sticks— Alan May (@MayHockeyCSN) February 8, 2013
@mayhockeycsn dude you use to wack me during practice. That's when everyone used wood sticks lol!— Brendan Witt (@Whitemooseranch) February 8, 2013
@whitemooseranch now I'd get sent to the corner for that & have to sit out practice for being inappropriate— Alan May (@MayHockeyCSN) February 8, 2013
@hogshaven Will do. If you need advice on how to blog expectations-raising false messiahs, let me know.— JapersRink (@JapersRink) February 8, 2013