As much as we'd sometimes like it to, not everything worth discussing requires 1000 words.
So to cover all those things that don't, we've taken a page from the great Elliotte Friedman and pulled together an homage to his must-read "30 Thoughts" column. Each week we'll gather up a cross-section of our (probably less than 30) thoughts - some we agree on, others we don't, all about the past week in Caps hockey - and present them to you for discussion, debate and general merriment. Enjoy!
- We've had a bit of a debate going over the new (or at least more strictly enforced) unsportsmanlike conduct penalty being doled out for players arguing - perhaps colorfully - over a call. The majority of your humble Rink staff like it, arguing that officials shouldn't be fair game for verbal abuse, that players know where the line is and shouldn't cross it. I disagree, because it seems like a call that's even more subjective than most without even the minimal accountability associated with other penalties. Where do you fall?
- Like every team, the Caps have sustained their share of injuries so far, most notably to Brooks Laich and Dmitry Orlov. But here's a scary thought - the Caps' two wins this season have come against the Sabres (sans Thomas Vanek) and the Flyers (without the services of Scott Hartnell). What would this team's record look like if Vanek and Hartnell had been healthy when the Caps faced their respective teams?
- Speaking of Brooks Laich, he's certainly missed - not because he's necessarily the magical missing piece this team needs (although he could certainly help) and not because he's the most skilled on the team (although he's not without talent). As is the case whenever a top-six forward is out, his absence forces others into roles for which they might not be suited; his return moves them back to where they should be in lineup and perhaps gives the team more scoring options, something they could use right now.
- If and when Laich returns, it's likely that, barring another injury, both Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson will both be headed for nightly nacho duty in the press box. But for how long? At some point one (or both) is going to express displeasure at his lack of ice time; Perreault's already taken a shot across the bow, even if he tried to gloss over it afterward. Have to imagine GMGM wants to avoid the appearance that he has to move either one if that begins to happen... so who goes and when?
- Hard not to wonder what's going on with Nicklas Backstrom this year. He's had a decent game here or there, and Backstrom on a bad day is still probably better than 90% of the League, but he's also had some real stinkers and just hasn't seemed himself.
- I don't know if it's the shortened season or just this team, but it's funny how every loss feels like they may never win again, and every win feels like it could be the start of something good. As much as the team's trying to figure it all out, we, as fans, are still very much trying to figure this team out, as well.
- Roman Hamrlik continues to sit out for the Caps and hasn't spoken out much about it... yet. Can't imagine he's enjoying being a healthy scratch every night, particularly with an AHLer filling one of the blue line roles. If we know one thing about Hamr, it's that he's not inclined to keep quiet when something's bothering him. Something to keep an eye on.
- Pleasant surprises so far this year - Mike Ribeiro, who just seems to have instant chemistry with everyone he plays with and leads the team with eleven points; Joel Ward, who has rebounded from a so-so first year in DC and not only leads the team in goals with four but has been great almost every shift; and Michal Neuvirth, who wasn't content to let Braden Holtby take the starter's job without a fight and has quietly put up some very solid performances this year (albeit with little assistance in front of him).
- It's no secret that Alex Ovechkin's performance this year has been anything but a pleasant surprise, right down to the strange stretch of games where he skated with Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle. Having said that, he looked more motivated and more effective over the last three games than he had in any of the previous games - and it's probably no accident that those inspired performances coincided with his being placed alongside Mike Ribeiro (although the opponents could certainly be a contributing factor, as well).
- John Carlson has been on the ice for 21 goals-against, aka more goals-against than seven teams have given up this year. Not all of them have been his fault, of course, but the faster he turns it around the happier we'll all be. Oh, and the way this season is going for him, this would be the way he scored his first of the season:
- You have to wonder how much of the Caps' early-season struggles have to do with personnel. In many ways, Adam Oates is being asked to prepare a gourmet meal with groceries George McPhee purchased for the previous chef's predecessor, some of which may be beyond its expiration date and some of which has been left out on the counter too long... metaphorically speaking, of course.
- As if you needed another reason to root for Joel Ward, a big one is the fact that he's dedicated this season to the memory of Drew Power, a college teammate who passed away over the summer. A bittersweet story that we hope not only fuels a great performance but also gives him some sort of peace as he deals with the loss of a friend.
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 1:
Had dinner with @backstrom19 chimmer, jojo and crabby. And my cheeks hurt from laughing so much. Love these guys!— Troy Brouwer (@tbrouwer20) January 29, 2013
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 2: