Goaltending, goal-scoring and more, all in this week's edition of Capital Ideas - debate, discuss, enjoy!
- Best of luck to Lindy Ruff, who was removed from duty after 16 (!) years as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. Over the course of his lengthy tenure behind the Buffalo bench, his Sabres posted a record of 31-25-3 (including 2 ties) in the regular season against the Caps, and of course were 2-4-0 in the playoffs... as we all remember.
- The kind of longevity Ruff had as coach was something pretty amazing, not just in hockey but across professional sports. In fact from the time he was hired until his termination yesterday, there were 170 coaching changes in the NHL alone - including six here in Washington.
- Alex Ovechkin's struggles at five-on-five have been well-documented, with just one even-strength goal on the year so far. What's stunning is the company he's keeping in the single ESG club: He's joined by Corey Perry, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron and some guy named Alexander Semin.
- Of course, that one even-strength goal is just one of five for Ovechkin on the year, so it could be worse - like with his teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who has just one goal total (although it is even-strength so there's that). Backstrom's got some pretty distinguished company himself, though: Henrik Sedin, Iginla, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are all still looking for goal #2 this season.
- Strange stat: The Caps have scored first eight times this year - and three of those game-opening goals have been scored by Troy Brouwer.
- In Sunday's loss to the Rangers, Brian Engblom made a few comments on Braden Holtby's positioning, noting that at times Holtby plays the net as if it's eight or nine feet wide instead of six, pulling him out of position unnecessarily and making it more difficult to get back. It's hard to argue with that observation, and seems to be part of a larger problem of Holtby sometimes over-playing the puck - something that comes with youth, to be sure, but should be addressed sooner rather than later.
- Interesting - and very different - outings last night for a couple of Caps' netminding alum, no? Tomas Vokoun's evening in Pittsburgh was eventful but not in a good way, as he gave up six goals to the Flyers (including the eventual game-winner that dribbled through his pads in the final minute). Meanwhile Semyon Varlamov out-dueled 2010 villain Jaroslav Halak, turning aside all 32 shots he faced in regulation and overtime en route to a 1-0 win for the Avalanche.
- Injuries are part of the game, but it's getting hard not to be concerned about how frequently Mike Green seems to be on the sidelines - especially when we see just how important he is to this team.
- Like most stats, faceoffs are often just one factor in a game filled with so many - but if you want to see just how impactful they can be, be sure to read Mike Vogel's breakdown of three key faceoffs in Sunday's loss. Great stuff.
- Jason Chimera is certainly not having the kind of year one might have expected after the kind of numbers he put up last year. More troubling than the lack of finish, however, is the lack of speed - we haven't seen many of those Chimera-like bursts up the wing, which is his trademark and not only results in scoring chances on a regular basis but also tends to draw penalties. At 33 he's not old by any means, but has he perhaps lost a step after not playing "real" hockey since last May?
- Speaking of Chimera, he's also the only Caps' forward without a goal yet this year. Last year by Game 15, Chimera had six goals - which would put him in second place on this year's squad, behind Troy Brouwer. Quite the leap off the cliff for Chimmer.
- It's been suggested by James Mirtle that the cutoff for a playoff spot this year is likely 55-56 points (although maybe a little lower in the Eastern Conference) - that means with 33 games remaining, the Caps need to put together something close to a 20-8-5 record the rest of the way to have a reasonable shot. For some perspective, that's almost exactly what they did back in 2007-08, squeaking into the postseason on the very last day. If you were around at the time, you know how amazing that run was... can they do it again?
- Worth noting (and has been noted by some) that the Caps have had fewer power play opportunities than their opponent in 12 of their first 15 games. Some of that is a simple issue of discipline, right down to knowing where the top of the glass is and not shooting the puck over it (...really, it didn't get taller during the lockout). Some of it might be related to the type of system the team is playing, where perhaps they're just not in positions to draw anything beyond the most blatant - or desperate - calls. And some of it is simply working - when you're moving your feet, when you're making the other team chase and when you're hemming them into their zone, you're going to draw calls. When you're not? You won't.
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 1 - Brendan Witt says what all of us are thinking:
Why does NBC still put milbury on tv. He sucks ass— Brendan Witt (@Whitemooseranch) February 17, 2013
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 2 - Brooks Laich swore he'd never join Twitter. Brooks Laich lied. Brooks Laich is forgiven.