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Capital Ideas: Week 14

Our weekly collection of Caps-centric thoughts, musings, debates and more.


Our final Capital Ideas of the year looks at the Caps' progress over this short season, the reinvigorated secondary scoring and more - debate, discuss, enjoy and bring on the playoffs!

  1. Obviously the Caps were able to overcome it, but it's amazing to think what this season would have been like had they not stumbled out of the gate. Consider that through the first 11 games, the Caps had a record of 2-8-1; since then, they've put together a record of 24-10-2, which would be good for about 68 points over the course of this entire shortened season or almost a 117 point pace over a regular 82-game schedule. Which is pretty good (albeit unlikely over a full year). But hey, at least this way we appreciate just making the playoffs at all, right?
  2. It almost seems as if the Caps have crammed two seasons into one, with a pretty clear line of demarcation between the two. The first half was filled with early struggles and gradual (yet inconsistent) improvement, the second with rejuvenation, hope and a playoff spot. Through the first 24 games the Caps managed just 10 wins and 21 points, scored 69 goals (2.88 goals/game) and gave up 72 (3 goals/game). Alex Ovechkin had just nine goals; Braden Holtby's save percentage dipped below .900 in seven of his first seventeen starts. In the 23 games since, the Caps have lost in regulation just five times (and only two in the last month), have outscored teams 74 to 56, and seen both Ovechkin's and Holtby's numbers - as well as those of their teammates - improve dramatically.
  3. Narrowing the focus to just the last eighteen games - i.e. starting with their first of two wins in Winnipeg - the Caps' remarkable run becomes even more pronounced. Just four losses, two of them in overtime. 64 goals scored (3.76 g/gm), just 41 allowed (2.41 ga/gm), and four wins by more than three goals. An 8-1-1 record away from Verizon Center. Last night's loss aside, that's pretty much what you want to see from a team headed into the playoffs.
  4. A few weeks ago we mentioned how the second line was struggling. It was a glaring issue in the six games between March 31 and April 9, as Troy Brouwer, Mike Ribeiro and whichever winger was joining them on a given night (Wojtek Wolski, Brooks Laich and, albeit briefly, Martin Erat) combined for just five points in six games, with the lone goal coming on the power play courtesy of Ribeiro. But that trend is starting to turn around big time, no doubt due at least in part to a healthy Erat making his return - over the last seven games, the second line has really begun to produce, with eight goals (six of which came at even strength) and eleven assists.
  5. As great as the contributions from the top two lines have been over the last week or two, an even more promising sign that the Caps are clicking is that the contributions are coming from the third and fourth lines, as well. It's not just the fact that they're scoring, either - it shows how often Adam Oates has been able to roll four lines of late, putting them in the position to chip in on offense more often. In that same span between March 31 and April 9, the "bottom" six forwards combined for a whopping three points; in the last seven games, that number has jumped up to fourteen points, including five goals.
  6. One final note on the recent surge in offense: the Caps have scored at least four goals in a game seventeen times this year... eleven of which have been in the second half of the season. That'll work.
  7. There's a lot to be optimistic about right now, but it's hard not to be a little concerned when looking at potential first-round matchups - particularly if it comes down to the Senators or the Islanders. In a combined six tries against them this season the Caps have come away with one win (via the shootout) and scored just nine goals (never more than two in a single game). And that kryptonite extends right on up through to the captain, as Ovechkin's lone goal against either team this season was scored in last night's overtime loss.
  8. The good news is that most of the games the Caps have played against Ottawa and the Isles have been pretty close, and that the lack of energy the Caps might have shown in any of those attempts will (hopefully) not be an issue in the playoffs. As we know all too well, postseason hockey has a way of revealing shortcomings that can be more easily hidden during the regular season; put skill against skill and strength against strength in either matchup and I like the Caps' chances. Still... if those are the options? Give me the Rangers for the 438704th time.
  9. A few weeks ago, when Tampa erased a four-goal deficit to force overtime at Verizon Center, none of us were particularly amused or pleased - and it didn't sound like the players were all that impressed with having to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat like that, either. But if there's a silver lining to that game, it's that the embarrassment seems to have really driven home the lesson (at least for now) about not letting up with a big lead. Twice in the three games that followed, the Caps again jumped out to a 5-1 lead, and both times they made sure to push for more right up until the final buzzer. Even in Tuesday's division-clinching win, as a desperate Jets team clawed their way back into the game, the Caps didn't crumble and answered right back en route to a 5-3 victory. Does last year's team manage to do the same? Does this year's Week 2 team? Probably not.
  10. Hard not to like the deal George McPhee just made to lock up Eric Fehr for two more years - Fehr has really made the most of his second chance with his former team and proven that, when healthy, he can be the player we all thought he could be. Even better, it gives him some job security at a very cap-friendly price tag for the Caps (and in fact locks him up at a lower cost than his 2010-12 contract). An excellent deal all around for one of this season's more pleasant surprises.
  11. The more I watch Adam Oates addressing the media after a game, the more I'm blown away by how calm and even-keeled he is regardless of that evening's outcome. His demeanor was the same after the almost-loss against Tampa as it was after the 5-1 victory in Montreal. And the loss in Ottawa. And even after his team clinched the Southeast Division. The old sports cliche dictates that you not get too high with the highs or too low with the lows - have to think it's much easier to follow when the man behind the bench is setting an example like that.
  12. Since Marcus Johansson's return from injury on March 10, he's been on the ice for 23 even strength goals by the Caps, tied for the best on the team with Ovechkin. He's also second on the team in even strength plus-minus over that span.
  13. So who's in first? Believe it or not, it's John Carlson, who has been on for 21 goals-for and just 10 goals-against during that same stretch. More surprising still is the player bringing up the rear, and that's Carlson's former defensive partner in crime, Karl Alzner. Alzner's been on for just 14 goals-for compared to 22 against (a total that is far and away the team high). Quite the role reversal from just a year ago, no?
  14. You might have heard the occasional mention of Alex Ovechkin leading the League in goals with 32. Pretty crazy to think that in 47 games he has now equaled his goal production from the entire 2010-11 season. Also crazy? Should that stand, he'll finish the season as the NHL's top goal-scorer at the ripe old age of 27 - which would make him the oldest player to lead the League in that category since Pavel Bure did it at 29 back in 2000-01. Proof that it's a young man's game these days (and that 27 is now "old"...pass the denture cream). [h/t d_fens]
  15. "Overheard" on Twitter - Brooks Laich sends a little love John Erskine's way: