Johansson's concussion, Ovechkin's milestone, lineup decisions, injured defensemen and more in this week's edition of Capital Ideas - debate, discuss, enjoy!
- Concussions are tricky animals, tough to detect even when the player is forthcoming (let alone when he tries to "fight through it") and requiring an over-abundance of caution. Case in point: Marcus Johansson. We all remember him laughing off his collision with Alex Ovechkin at training camp and going on to play the first nine games of the season. When he started missing games, Adam Oates said it was unrelated and Johansson was a bit tight-lipped about it after starting to skate again. Then comes word it was indeed a concussion sidelining him, that perhaps he'd sustained it when he and his captain had knocked noggins and that he'd even hidden how he was feeling.
Could the team have handled it all differently? Maybe. But players have to do their part, and that means being honest with themselves and their team's medical staff - using their brains when it comes to protecting their brains.
- The next two weeks will likely be filled with debate over whether the Caps should hang on to Mike Ribeiro and attempt to re-sign him over the summer (or sooner), or try to move him and his expiring contract out at the trade deadline for some kind of return. A potential red flag is his recent run of unsportsmanlike penalties for basically mouthing off to the referees. Based on salary and age, he'd be looked upon as a leader in the room - and to be fair, does seem to be cultivating a good reputation as just that - but is he really someone the Caps want in that kind of role going forward, particularly as they try and change the culture of the team? Perhaps, perhaps not.
- Another potential consideration is Ribeiro's contract, which includes a limited no-trade clause that allows him to provide a list of ten teams to which he won't accept a trade. The question is, when does he have to do so? A certain date each year? At the team's request (i.e. maybe now)? That could have a huge impact on where - or even if - he's traded.
- We all know that Sidney Crosby is having a great start to the season, with 47 points in 28 games to lead the League. That hot run by Sid certainly makes you sentimental for 2009-10, though, when Ovechkin had at least 47 points over a 28-game stretch 23 times (obviously with a lot of overlap, but still), 22 of which took place during the 09-10 campaign, the most recent stretch ending on March 20, 2010. He never had fewer than 18 goals over that stretch, and topped out at 54 points twice (22G, 32A).
- Those heady days of red-hot offensive production may be gone, but the greatness remains - in flashes, maybe, but it's there, and was on full display last night when he finally picked up career point #700. What made it extra special was that he did so exactly when the team needed him to, scoring the huge game-tying goal against Carolina - and it was especially nice to see that goal (and an all-around strong game) from Ovechkin after getting beaten up in the press a bit over the last few days, wasn't it?
- "Overheard" on Twitter bonus - a few current and future teammates gave the big man a shout-out for his milestone:
- There's no question that the Caps are lacking in forward depth at the moment, especially with Brooks Laich still on the shelf, but it is rather puzzling that Adam Oates continues to choose Joey Crabb and Aaron Volpatti over Wojtek Wolski and Mathieu Perreault. Neither Crabb nor Volpatti is logging big minutes, neither one is getting power play or penalty kill minutes, and neither is putting up much in the way of offense (well... until last night, of course). So why give grinders a sweater when you've got a couple of offensively-minded guys in street clothes? 'Tis a puzzlement.
- After last night's win, the Caps are now 11-2-0 when scoring three or more goals, 0-11-1 when scoring two or fewer. Not surprising that more goals equals more wins, but two things stick out there. First of all, how evenly split is this season between wins and losses? The up and down is enough to make you sick. And secondly, while it's great that the Caps tend to win when scoring at least three goals, they need to figure out how to win the 1-0 or 2-1 games as well... looking at you, too, Braden and Michal.
- The NHL presented it, the NHLPA voted on it, and yesterday the Board of Governors approved it, making it official: realignment is a go, effective at the start of the 2013-14 season. With the new divisional layout, the Caps will return to their roots a bit, joining up with old Patrick Division foes (essentially the current Atlantic Division) along with Carolina and Columbus. Those former rivals are still some of the best and most intense match-ups for the Caps - and their fans - so it should be an entertaining shift. If the Caps don't improve over the summer, however, it might be a painful one at first, too... especially if the invading hordes from Pittsburgh, Philly and New York show up en masse as they're prone to do.
- Since the Southeast Division was born, the Caps' division rivals have combined for two Stanley Cups and a record of 1758-1867-257-404 - a .487 points percentage. Over that same span, the Caps' new division rivals have a record of 3469-2998-411-605, a .531 points percentage, and four Stanley Cups (although Carolina's Cup is included in both). In other words... we'll miss you, Southeast Division.
- It's been a rough season for the Caps' blueline, and it just got rougher last night, as Tomas Kundratek left the game with a leg injury and is awaiting an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Here's hoping that it's not that bad, because the Hershey well is starting to run a little dry. Heal up quickly, Dmitry Orlov.
- Speaking of Hershey defensemen, the wheel o' blueliners continued to spin earlier this week as Cameron Schilling got the call and made his NHL debut on Tuesday. Say what you will about the organizational depth at defense (or lack thereof) but the guys who have stepped in - Kundratek, Oleksy and now Schilling - have hardly looked out of place and in fact have been some of the team's more solid performers night to night.
- Coming into last night's game, the Hurricanes were 8-0-1 when scoring first and 11-0-0 when leading after two periods. You're welcome, Carolina!
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 1 - Some of the boys enjoy a night out in Raleigh:
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 2 - John Carlson pokes a little fun at his pint-sized buddy:
Ovechkin with his 700th career point tonight. Amongst all the criticism, no doubt still one of the best players in the league #respect— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) March 15, 2013
Steven Oleksy (@StevenOleksy) March 15, 2013