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Posted at 10:55 AM ET, 12/28/2010

A weekend's worth of thoughts

By Kareem El-Alaily

Perreault to Wing?

We saw the best and worst of Mathieu Perreault over the past two games. He played great Sunday night against the Canes, creating chances, netting his fifth goal and drawing the Caps a major penalty in only three minutes of play. However, this was preceded by a poor outing Thursday night against Pittsburgh, finishing -1 with 4 PiM – including a bad third-period offensive zone infraction - in only 12 minutes of ice time while skating with Alex Ovechkin. We know Perreault’s offensive instincts are strong and his hustle is never in question, but his defensive game just isn’t going to cut it against machine-like contenders such as Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Those teams are too big and strong up front for Perreault to be effective defensively.

However…the purpose of this post is not to throw MP85 under the bus. I think the guy has shown the ability to play at the NHL level. If he wants to do it in Washington long-term I believe he needs to do it as a wing. He doesn’t play the best defense so why force it on him? Move him to wing, remove him from the face-off circle (where he’s at 44 percent), lessen his defensive responsibilities and increase the time he can spend buzzing around the net, an area where he obviously makes things happen. On a team with three top six wingers up for free agency after this year – and a small likelihood that they can keep all three – I can envision Mathieu Perreault effectively sliding over to right wing for 2010-11, especially if the Caps acquire a long-term solution at second-line center.

Anyway, that was just a thought. Some other thoughts from the weekend:

  • Don’t look now but the Caps are 3-1-2 in their past six games, capturing eight of the available 12 points. A 67 percent points percentage corresponds to a 111-point pace and is back to an output commensurate with the team’s skill level. Hopefully the worst of the streak is behind us and we can resume our normal course of winning.
  • A happy “Welcome Back” to Alex Ovechkin! Play like you did the past two games and we’ll be alright. Thirteen shots on net, two points, and some thunderous, momentum-changing hits! Hopefully we’ll see this level of play for the rest of the season.
  • Ovechkin’s once-and-future linemate, Mike Knuble, has really stepped up his game lately, scoring timely goals, filling in admirably on the PK while the regular penalty killers are injured, and giving fiery locker room speeches. That’s what you expect of a 39-year old leader. It’s those intangibles that you look for from veteran players and it’s what he’s delivering.
  • I was disappointed with the Caps 5-on-3 play against the Penguins on Thursday. True, Mike Green scored but the Caps didn’t do themselves any favors by collapsing their two-man advantage into a small little box. At one point, all nine skaters on the ice were within 25 feet of the goalie. This jumbled mess of humanity plays directly into the hands of the penalty killing team, especially a good one like Pittsburgh’s. It gets so bunched up that forwards can’t really move, leaving defenders with less space to cover.  The Caps need to spread their 5-on-3 unit out and make opposing players cover more ground. It may be counter-intuitive, but such a move opens up the ice and creates more chances. (The puck travels faster than any penalty killer can.) If the penalty killers insist on staying bunched up down low then Ovechkin and Green can start bombing shots from the point. It’s more effective than the cutesy perimeter passing game the team employs while waiting for the perfect shot.
  • For all the hoopla Alex Semin received at the beginning of the season he’s actually having a poor year by his standards. With 35 points in 35 games his 1.00 point per game average is below last year’s 1.15 pace and far off the 1.27 pace from the year before. I know this will raise the ire of the Semin Lobby, but Semin is not worth $6M a year as a point-per-game player. The Caps really need him to get untracked so that he can take some pressure off of the first line. If he doesn’t the Caps have a tough decision to make in the next two months: extend the pending free agent on a multi-year deal at somewhere between $6M-$6.5M/season (while potentially losing out on the ability to re-sign other Caps UFAs), or move him at the trade deadline. On his best days $6M for Sasha is a bargain. He had a streak of nine games in October/November where he chipped in 17 points and was absolutely dominant. On his bad days $6M is an awfully expensive amount to justify. That would include his December, where he’s been reduced to five assists coupled with 21 penalty minutes. I don’t envy George McPhee for the decision he has to make by March 1.

By Kareem El-Alaily  | December 28, 2010; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  | Tags:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  
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Semin isn't necessarily a choice to be made by the deadline. They could keep him for the playoffs, and then trade him prior to free agency (say to move up in the draft) or something.

Posted by: GFisher1 | December 28, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

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