Exploring different facets of the captain's awesomeness, the return of Brooks Laich, the magic of healthy defensemen and more in this week's edition of Capital Ideas - debate, discuss, enjoy!
- The two teams the Caps faced last weekend were from different ends of the spectrum in more ways than one, but one key area is faceoffs - the Bruins are the League's best faceoff team, the Sabres the second-worst. It's easy to overemphasize the importance of faceoffs, but does the goal Alex Ovechkin scored just 19 seconds in to the Buffalo game even happen against Boston? Nicklas Backstrom was 2-for-8 in the offensive zone in Boston, and just 5-for-11 against Buffalo, but obviously one of those five wins was huge. Conclusions: faceoffs matter when they matter.
- That early goal by Ovechkin was also his 16th goal in 24 games against Ryan Miller, matching his highest total against any goaltender in the League - although the 16 goals he got against Kari Lehtonen came in only 18 games. Raise your hand if you want to see Miller stick around in the Eastern Conference...
- A lot of fuss was made over Steven Stamkos' 200th career goal the other night, and it certainly is a worthwhile achievement by a great young goal-scorer. But because we can, it's worth noting that it took Stamkos 354 games to achieve this feat; Ovechkin got his 200th in career game #296, 58 games faster than the wee Stamkos. The only players to get there faster than Ovi? Brett Hull (280 games), Mario Lemieux (277), Mike Bossy (255) and of course the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, who picked up his 200th in an insane 242 games. Not bad company, that... even if you include Stamkos.
- One more Ovechkin note: only 13 other players scored at least 350 goals at age 27 or younger like the captain has done. With a little less than six months until his 28th birthday it's reasonable to assume he'll jump up at least two spots on that list, passing Guy Lafleur and Bryan Trottier.
- Twenty-nine games into the season, the Caps are the only team left in the NHL to not have a game decided in the shootout. I know, I know, be thankful for small victories... but at some point it might be nice to see The Paralyzer unleashed (to say nothing of Wojtek Wolski and Mike Ribeiro), right?
- The 30 NHL GMs began their annual meetings yesterday, and among the many topics up for discussion appears to be a coach's challenge. We as Caps fans are good at hanging on to moments where the team was wronged (whether it was real or not) - so put on your thinking caps, what moment in the team's colorful history would you have used the challenge on?
- Brooks Laich made his triumphant return to the lineup on Tuesday night after missing twenty-eight games with a groin injury. Up until this season, Laich had missed a grand total of twenty-two games over the course of his entire career (for injuries and healthy scratches), and never more than nine games in a single season. Stupid lockout.
- ...okay, we lied. One more Ovechkin note. His power play goal against the Penguins Tuesday night gave him eight on the season - not only does that tie him for the League lead, it also puts him just five shy of his total from all of last season (78 games) and one ahead of his total from the season before. If nothing else, it's nice to see both Ovi and the team figure things out with the extra man. Er... most of the time.
- Pittsburgh used to be a house of horrors for the Caps - all-time they're 37-52-9 in the Steel City, dating back to some rough runs through the Patrick Division. Since the lockout, however, it's evened out just a little; the Crosby vs. Ovechkin era started with the Caps dropping five straight in the 'burgh, but since then they've gone 8-2-1, with two of the three losses coming this season (as I'm sure you all remember).
- After seeing so many injuries early in the year, it's been nice to see a few guys return, as Brooks Laich, Dmitry Orlov and Jack Hillen all returned to active duty with Mike Green on the cusp of doing the same. Whether it will be spun as such or not, getting Laich, Orlov and Green back right ahead of the deadline is like adding a top-six winger and two top-4 defensemen - too little too late, perhaps, but it should at very least provide us with a better sense of where this team is with a reasonably healthy lineup.
- That said, I can't be the only one who will be watching Green with a cautious eye for the rest of
his careerthe season, considering the kind of luck he (and the organization) has had with this kind of injury of late.
- Last week there was a lot of chatter about the two games against Carolina being a pivotal point in the season - and while it was very important, and crucial that the Caps at least earn a split, there's no question that the back-to-back games against the division's new top dog, Winnipeg will tell us even more. Take both, and the Caps close to within five points of the Jets for the division lead (with a game in hand) and the potential to be just three points out of eighth. Earn a split or drop both, the picture's much more grim, especially with just seventeen games left after they depart Winnipeg.
- With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, the rest of this road trip might decide whether the Caps are sellers or not. It's easy for us to say 'sell,' but we're not the ones making the call on whether or not they're still in the hunt (and we don't have to sell tickets... or hope). These decisions are rarely as cut-and-dry as they might seem to casual observers.
- "Overheard" on Twitter - Steven Oleksy has a great sense of humor: