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After shock of trade, Caps look ahead to Sharks

Mark Giannotto's story for tomorrow's paper is about the Caps moving past yesterday's trade and looking ahead to the game at San Jose. Here's an excerpt:

He squirmed from side to side, puffed his cheeks out, and let go of a deep breath, preparing to give an appropriate response to the question of whether the trade that sent his former captain and next-door neighbor in the Verizon Center locker room, Chris Clark, and defenseman Milan Jurcina to Columbus for winger Jason Chimera just hours earlier had any effect on his team's performance in a 6-3 loss to Carolina.
"We're professionals; we understand it's a business," Laich said. "I don't think the trade had anything to do with the hockey game. Obviously they're very good friends and a huge part of our locker room . . . but as far as taking away or distracting us during the game, that's not an excuse at all."
But the disappointing loss to the NHL's worst team had all the telltale signs of a team preoccupied with something other than the game at hand. | Full story »

Tarik's finally in San Jose and working on a Jason Chimera story, which will be online later this evening. Also, a bit of news per the Caps, of interest to those who have been following Brooks Laich's goal-scoring troubles:

After video review and confirmation from the players involved, the Caps third goal last night has been changed. It should read:
Brooks Laich (11) from Ovechkin and Green
Therefore Ovechkin no longer has a share of the league lead in goals.

Sorry, Ovie.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  December 29, 2009; 4:31 PM ET
 | Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Chris Clark, Jason Chimera, Milan Jurcina, San Jose Sharks  
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Next: Jason Chimera on second line

Comments

Laich getting the goal puts a modest feel-good spin on what was otherwise a stinker of a game.

Posted by: AleksanderOMunchkin | December 29, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

It may not have been an excuse, but it was a factor. I am awaiting a fired up team ready to prove itself on the left coast!

Posted by: FLDave | December 29, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

but who is the captain?

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we aren't hitting because we are short defensemen? Poti, Pothier out, and Juice traded away.
-----------------------

Poti ? are you serious? He's the worst hitting defenseman in the nhl. He has 11 hits all season. Juice only got traded yesterday. Over the course of the entire season the Caps have not been hitting. They're ranked 23rd in the league. They were ranked about 18th last yr I think.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully this will fuel OV for 2morrow! He wants that lead bad. Anyone else notice that his passing seemsto be a lot better latly...he has set up most o Backie's goals lately!

Posted by: capscoach | December 29, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

final dead horse beating of the day:

http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=509096

clearly spells out the Pens philosophy when it comes to finishing off checks. This is not a McPhee/Boudreau philosophy.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

cstanton1

This is not a hitting, grinding team. It is built on speed and offensive fire power. Our best hitter is OV and after recent events he is tentative at best. Maybe we can get Scott Stevens to come out of retirement? The last time I saw him he looked to be in great shape!

Posted by: FLDave | December 29, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Good for brooksie,I'm sure ovie dont mind and he'll make it back up and some more in no time.Also I hope they can put there feelings aside for next game and there after but I totally understand the break down last night cause it hit me with a shock so i can imagine how they felt.but its time to move on,be professional,and welcome the new guy in and start kickin tale again.GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: gratefuldid | December 29, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm not calling Poti a hitter, I hate FN.Poti. I'm merely saying we are short defensemen due to injury and trades. So maybe they got the word to take it easy on the hits.

Posted by: JSchon | December 29, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

from last thread:
The Caps hitters (at least 2 per game):
Ovy, Shaone, Erskine

Barely making the grade (between 1 and 2/game):
Green, Brads, Laing, Steck, BP, Laich, Sloan, Juice (gone), Clark (gone)

Almost not worth mentioning (less than 1 per game):
Backstrom, Schultz, Knuble, Fehr

Not worth mentioning:
Alzner, Gordo, Flash, Semin, BMo

2) the coaching staff and front office doesn't feel that hitting is a critical component to success. Its a philosophical difference that exists between the coaching staff and GM that exists here, vs in many other organizations incl the world champs.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 4:31 PM


everyone on the d should be hitting more. i'm not talking about the bone crunching hits you see in the highlights - but the hits clark would give - like when a opponent dman just passed from behind his own net - clark was never going to get the puck - but made the hit anyway to let the dman know he was there. i think juice picked up his hitting this year and that was one of the reasons i was sad to see him traded.
i wouldn't expect ovi, semin, backstrom, flash or fehr to be hitting all that much
brads, stecks, laich, laing, gordon, bmo and knuble should all be hitting 1+ per game on average.
everyone on the d should be +2 per game.
this is the phyiscal game of pit that cstanton1 is talking about

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 29, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"Poti ? are you serious? He's the worst hitting defenseman in the nhl. He has 11 hits all season. Juice only got traded yesterday. Over the course of the entire season the Caps have not been hitting. They're ranked 23rd in the league. They were ranked about 18th last yr I think."

Posted by: cstanton1


cstanton1: That's very disrespectful to Schultz. He works hard at being the least hitting D-man in the NHL. :-P

Posted by: aglatfelter | December 29, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

"cstanton1: That's very disrespectful to Schultz. He works hard at being the least hitting D-man in the NHL. :-P"


Every once in a while Schutlz will be forced to make contact due to positioning. It's good to know he will generally not use his superior size and 'pick on' smaller opposing forwards. Schultz is the poster child for “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”.

Posted by: FLDave | December 29, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm not calling Poti a hitter, I hate FN.Poti. I'm merely saying we are short defensemen due to injury and trades. So maybe they got the word to take it easy on the hits.

Posted by: JSchon | December 29, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

JS, this has been a team that has been declining in the physical aspects of the game for a while now. I don't judge by one game or even a stretch of games. We're 350+ hits off the pace this season alone. I don't think that has any correlation to guys like Poti being out. As far as I know, no team explicitly tells its players to not finish their checks just because they're filling in for other injured players. And the hitting has been non-prolific BEFORE the injuries hit. This has been a trend for a while now.

To answer any potential arguments that state this team's record despite its lack of hitting, I'll simply point back to the Penguins. They have an equivalent if not greater skill advantage over us. And they have an enormous physical advantage over us. So in order for us to bridge that gap, we need to improve the little things that we do - putting in the work to finish the checks that are available to our players. Since our team skates so well, we're even in a better position to finish checks than in yrs past. Stats aside, I see too many situations where our players simply pass up the opportunity to finish a check.

And if you look at the benefits of hitting (drawing penalties ala Bradley and Giroux did against Carcillo and Duco), momentum changes, causing turnovers, disrupting another team's flow etc, its too valuable a component to simply dismiss.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I have to respond to doughless implying my eyes need to be checked, and that I'm a goob. I attend just about every Caps game and don't rely on replays to let me know what happened at the last game. To say that the 1st line had an off night last night is rediculous. Backstrom, Ovi, and Semin were on the ice for the goal that was waived off too. Ovi had yet another 2 point night, which makes 11 points in the last 4 games. They were the only line causing havoc last night, period.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 29, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

brads, stecks, laich, laing, gordon, bmo and knuble should all be hitting 1+ per game on average.
everyone on the d should be +2 per game.
this is the phyiscal game of pit that cstanton1 is talking about

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 29, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

dats rite

The big disparity on this team is the defensive hitting. Its virtually non-existent and will be even more with the departure of a Juice. Our forwards can also improve but imo the disparity is greater on defense. Last night if you take Mo out of the equation, the other 5 defensemen registered a grand total of just one hit. That's gotta be a record. And just overall, the instant a forward releases the puck our defensemen just back off. That lets the forward come back into the play a lot easier. Its a combination of the coaching staff not stressing this component of the game and the fact that most of our players really don't play or embrace that style.

awrite im outtie

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Okay, so Ovi doesn't share the league lead in goals anymore. Pish. I'll start the over/under for the number of games that lasts at two. Seriously, that is the biggest non-event in the last two days.

I'm expecting a fired-up team in San Jose, and Jason Chimera is apparently a Shark-killer, having faced them twice already this season and had a goal in each of those games.

Truthfully? It's classy of them that they won't make the excuse, but there's no need to pretend. It was a factor. Look, it happens. We've had, what, four blowouts as we approach the halfway mark in the season? Meh. That's one in ten - the world will not come to a crashing halt on account of the odd stinker. I for onw am willing to give them a mulligan on last night, provided they pick it up and come out flying in San Jose.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 29, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

All of you bonehead Schultz haters better get used to #55. He is a strong stay at home defenseman that will be with the Caps for many many years. In case you haven't noticed BB now pairs #55 with our weakest D left in the line-up. He played with Jurcina in his last game with the Caps and he was with Sloan last night. Sorry, better hockey minds totally disagree with the Schultz haters on this board.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 29, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

cstanton1

This is not a hitting, grinding team. It is built on speed and offensive fire power
---------------

ok one more post on this

You can be a speed and offensive firepower team AND still be a prolific hitting team. In fact in my book, those can go hand-in-hand very easily. Those 2 components are not mutually exclusive. You can use your speed to do many things that disrupt your opponents -- get in deep to finish checks and cause turnovers, use your speed to make plays with the puck or to steal the puck, etc. Speed WITH aggression is much more effective than speed without aggression.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

All of you bonehead Schultz haters better get used to #55. He is a strong stay at home defenseman that will be with the Caps for many many years. In case you haven't noticed BB now pairs #55 with our weakest D left in the line-up. He played with Jurcina in his last game with the Caps and he was with Sloan last night. Sorry, better hockey minds totally disagree with the Schultz haters on this board.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 29, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

whats with the insults. Here we are having a pleasant discussion and you have to take it personally and start calling people "boneheads". Attack the argument, not the poster. Only attack the poster when you yourself have been attacked. This like internet decorum 101 dude.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

i've noticed that backstrom is more willing to finish his checks this year than he has in past years - i'd like to see more of that.
i don't think cstanton1 is asking for the team to be like philly - but when you're not going to take yourself out of the play - just finish your check and let the other team know your on the ice too

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 29, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I think that one of the reasons cited by GMGM and BB for bringing in Chimera was that they perceived a need to increase hitting. Juice will be missed in this regard. Hopefully Schultz will pick it up in the future - he does this "pillow" hit now, that is almost like a hug. I say this as someone who has defended Schultz play.

Posted by: zmega | December 29, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

cstanton1: You have the same lame argument when it comes to Schultz, and the lack of hitting by the Caps in general.

The Caps used to be a physical team, back when they lacked skill. They played "Caps hockey." Do you remember "Caps hockey.=?" I do, and those Caps could never beat the skilled teams. They played tight games, and lost. Now they are the skilled team that pulls out wins. They throw just enough checks to be competing for the most points in the league. The recent trade, and Cap space created by the assignment of Nylander, are the Caps posturing to have enough money to add what they think they need for a true Cup run. Chimura might be a step in the right direction, we'll see. IMO the Columbus deal was a way to clear Cap space rather than the acquisition of a player we needed.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 29, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton1- Minus the bonehead usage, fanohock's right on the $ though. Everybody cries for a stay-at-home defenseman and complains about Schultz. I think he's shaping up to be a solid d-man who will complement a partner that likes to be aggressive on the O-side. I thought the same of Alzner, but saw him jump in the play at least once last night...

Posted by: Chad8 | December 29, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

actually i was going to mention that about Backstrom. He's shown less timidity this season and more of a willingness to finish checks especially when the team is down. Its not a major improvement but its an improvement nonetheless.

Semin was actually starting to finish some checks before his run-in with Staal last yr. If you look at Semin's stats AFTER that Rangers game, there's a big dropoff in his hitting.

Another player I think who has really dropped off in the way he plays along the boards is Eric Fehr. When you watch him now he looks like more of a cherry picker. When the play is along the boards now he pokes his stick in the pile trying to get it loose instead of running his big body in there. His play away from the front of the net has been disappointing lately. Its almost like when he started scoring goals he forgot some of his work habits he was utilizing before that got him to that point.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The Caps used to be a physical team, back when they lacked skill. They played "Caps hockey." Do you remember "Caps hockey.=?" I do, and those Caps could never beat the skilled teams. They played tight games, and lost. Now they are the skilled team that pulls out wins. They throw just enough checks to be competing for the most points in the league. The recent trade, and Cap space created by the assignment of Nylander, are the Caps posturing to have enough money to add what they think they need for a true Cup run. Chimura might be a step in the right direction, we'll see. IMO the Columbus deal was a way to clear Cap space rather than the acquisition of a player we needed.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 29, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse


Its amazing to me how some people make the same black-n-white argument over and over again. You either don't get it or you pretend you don't get it. No one is saying that the Caps need to field a team of non- skilled grinders. Do the Pens have a team of non-skilled grinders? No, and yet they're a much more prolific hitting team that also just won the Cup. Explain that one genius.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I said earlier that I didn't want Jose to start tomorrow. But I've thought about it... wouldn't it make sense for BB to let him start and try to redeem himself from last night's game? I have a feeling BB goes to Theo tomorrow. Because you know Theo needs to get into his rhythm. He needs to play several games in a row. But on the other hand this would be an awesome chance to see what Neuvy can do against a REALLY good offense. Almost as good as ours. It will be very interesting to see!

Posted by: rachel216 | December 29, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton1- Minus the bonehead usage, fanohock's right on the $ though. Everybody cries for a stay-at-home defenseman and complains about Schultz. I think he's shaping up to be a solid d-man who will complement a partner that likes to be aggressive on the O-side. I thought the same of Alzner, but saw him jump in the play at least once last night...

Posted by: Chad8 | December 29, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Sarge is a work in progress but he appears to be heading in the right direction. He still has a lot of room for improvement though. Where does it say you have to be a non-physical stay at home defenseman? Most stay-at-homers are very physical with the very odd exception. And no, Schultz is not Lidstrom. Neither is Alzner.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton1

As long as you are still posting about hitting, please give the breakdown of the Pens roster and who hits and who doesn't, as you did with the Caps roster. (you are one tenacious poster I'll give you that)

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | December 29, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

When the play is along the boards now he pokes his stick in the pile trying to get it loose instead of running his big body in there.
Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:29 PM

i'm going to keep stealing cstanton1's words.
this is a perfect example of when it is appropriate to use the body. in a scrum along the boards, i think there are very few teams that look over their shoulder to see who is coming (other than maybe ovi) to get the puck. they just dig and dig never worrying about getting hit. keep an eye out next game and see which team digs for a puck with just their stick and which team lays a hit and then tries to find the dislodged puck.
again - not bone cruching hits - just hits when they should be doled out

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 29, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

final dead horse beating of the day:

http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=509096

clearly spells out the Pens philosophy when it comes to finishing off checks. This is not a McPhee/Boudreau philosophy.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse


agressive forecheck and hard hitting backchecking leads to turnovers, better breakouts and ultimately more scoring opportunities...

the pennises physical play is why they have been to the stanley cup the last two years and actually won one...

i love our team but the game changes in the playoffs...our openspeed/skill high octane offense is great but teams dont let you skate through the nutral zone and deep into their end in the playoffs.

there is a saying that this "russian" style doesnt work in the playoffs. if any evidene to that its how we stuggled mightily against the Rangers and Penns in the playoffs last year.

maybe we are so good it wont matter...maybe our goaltending and defensive moves before the trade deadline along with our offensive firepower will overcome this...

but i for one would love to see this team develop (diversify) a more complete and physical game. my logic isnt to stop being offensive minded yet add another dimension to the team game. good defense, hard hitting back checking and aggressive forechecking (a little dump and chase now and then) all leads to more offense. and we all know what this team can do with more offensive chances!!!

we need to develop a complete game for the playoffs...

IF there is one thing that will keep us from winning the cup...this is it...

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Also i think that Backs has been much more physical and is developing a bit of mean streak this season--all for the good. And I remember Alzner stating that he is really working on the physical side of his game and yes I do remember him getting into it last night. Finally I don't know if Chimera is a huge drop the gloves type from what I've read thus far but he is a pest-like, get in your face, and is willing to fight kind of player. I'm looking forward to seeing what he will bring.

In general I believe in balance on a team--that includes hitting of course. It can be very effective. But I don't think that the hitting aspect is a guarantee of winning anything.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | December 29, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Alzner doesn't have the physical strength to move anyone off the puck. Although I was glad to read what he said about wanting to improve that part of his game (which btw was pointed out by a few of us only to be met by scorn and ridicule by the "experts" who said that adding a physical component to his game was completely unnecessary and in some way actually detrimental!)


new thread by the way. Randinno come outta hiding! I'm serving crow as your appetizer :)

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

The Pens are a more prolific hitting team? What heck are you talking about? Last year's Stanley Cup Finals had two skilled teams playing each other. The last physical team left in the playoffs last year was Anaheim and eliminated by Detroit. The Caps and Pens are almost mirror images of each other right now, that is why they are both successful. I'm not wasting any more of my time with you. You get into a scuffle just about every time you come in here.

You are the same "fan" that lost that pizza bet to me last year in the playoffs. You know what, I'm calling in the bet. I normally wouldn't but since you are such a hockey expert I have to take advantage of your blunder. If you ever plan to show up at Verizon let me know. I'll meet you at Papa John's in the stadium and I will enjoy the delicious pizza from a Caps victory because you ditched your team like most Caps "fans" do when things aren't going well. Plus I just have to meet a hockey expert. The next game I am going to is the Ottawa game next week. I am out of town on business for the next two, but will be back in town for the game against the Flyers. Let me know when and where you want to meet.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 29, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

@fanohock1

the problem with the old time Caps Hockey and their inability to beat the skilled teams was that it was one dimensional.

they played close tight games and were basically in every game...but if they fell behind they lacked pure goal scorers/finishers to get back into and win those games. it wasnt so much the style we played...we just didnt have pure goal scorers and finishers to compliment it...

again, one dimensional...thats the problem with this team now...now we are the other extreme...we can come back from a 2 or more goal deficit...awesome...but how we ever got past the rangers in the playoff was beyond me. the 5on5 penalty kills were tough to watch...if we were able to match their agressive forechecking, backchecking and defense they wouldnt have even had a chance against us.

again...its a different game in the playoffs and we need to add that dimension so we can excell in a playoff hockey environment...

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

The Pens are a more prolific hitting team? What heck are you talking about?
----------------------------------

I'd really like to call you an idiot but I won't. You're right. The Penguins and the Caps are equally prolific when it comes to finishing their checks. The league has conspired to amp up their hit totals in every arena just to make them look more physical then they are. Good one Fanock! Only you would actually argue in the face of real numbers.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

if this team learns to finish their checks all over the ice...we WILL win a cup...probably multiple!!!

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

again...its a different game in the playoffs and we need to add that dimension so we can excell in a playoff hockey environment...

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

don't argue with Fanock. He's correct. The Caps and Pens are equally physical. "Mirror Images"!

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

2008-09 -- The Pens finished with 1939 hits. That was 277 more hits than the Caps had.

2009-10 -- the Pens are 350 hits ahead already halfway thru the season and ranked 2nd in the entire NHL.

Go ahead and tell us why the Penguins are not a prolific hitting team Fanock. This should be good.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

case in point the backstrom goal last year against the rangers in the playoffs...someone called it out on this blog recently a week or more back...

I think he finished 3 checks on that play at both ends of the ice before the goal.

ovie plays defensive zone defense like he is on the penalty kill...if he would just run through his man once they get possession like he does when he is flying back into the zone or does in the open ice it would set the right tone for the team and generate more offense...and we all know what that would lead to...

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I just figured out why Fanock doesn't get it. He thinks that skilled teams cannot be physical. wow

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

case in point the backstrom goal last year against the rangers in the playoffs...someone called it out on this blog recently a week or more back...

I think he finished 3 checks on that play at both ends of the ice before the goal.

ovie plays defensive zone defense like he is on the penalty kill...if he would just run through his man once they get possession like he does when he is flying back into the zone or does in the open ice it would set the right tone for the team and generate more offense...and we all know what that would lead to...

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Philly essentially took themselves out of the last game when Bradley pasted Carcillo who retaliated with a 7 min PP in our favor. Giroux put the finishing touches on Florida when he finished 2 checks and drew the ire of Mike Duco who gave us another extended PP opportunity.

Timley hitting has so many benefits its hard to know where to start. As Capt Kirk stated, its not about taking yourself out of the play. Its about taking advantage of the opportunities which are presented. If the Caps simply just took advantage of most of the hits that were presented to them, we'd be a better more well-rounded team heading into the playoffs. Because playoff hockey is different and when you don't have a dramatic skill advantage over another team, then they can bridge that gap with their physical play.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

"Timley hitting has so many benefits its hard to know where to start. As Capt Kirk stated, its not about taking yourself out of the play. Its about taking advantage of the opportunities which are presented. If the Caps simply just took advantage of most of the hits that were presented to them, we'd be a better more well-rounded team heading into the playoffs. Because playoff hockey is different and when you don't have a dramatic skill advantage over another team, then they can bridge that gap with their physical play."

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 29, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse


AMEN Brother!!!

Posted by: deadskin | December 29, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm. I've been reading the hitting debate for a bit, but haen't really found a reason to chime in until now.

I see both sides of his debate. cstanton1 is right in that throwing good checks is a great tool that can wear down your opponent, create turnovers, establish a presence, throw a play offsides, and generally just make you a pain in the ass to play against. They're definitely no bad thing and they're certainly fun to watch.

BUT.

They're only one of many tools in the Caps' arsenal that can be used for that purpose. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Used incorrectly, they can create defensive coverage lapses that can lead to transitions and scoring opportunities for the other team. Get yourself out of position because you're trying to throw a huge check and suddenly you find yourself behind the play. If you don't have support from your teammates, it's best not to throw one and to keep yourself in position, because a hit, even if it's small, can take you out of the play briefly. It can wear you down as well and, if you miss, can actually injure you. It's better to think of a body check as one tool in the defensive toolbox rather than a go-to that should be used as much as possible. A player who has mastered several approaches to defense and suits his approach to the situation is much more difficult to counter and plan for than a guy who only uses one, and a team of those guys is difficult to prepare for. It's like the difference between preparing for the Flyers and the Red Wings. You know the Flyers are going to hit you, so you're ready for that. The Wings do it all - reach, support, positioning, physical play - so they're more difficult to prepare for.

This is why I like Schultz's approach to hitting this season, much more than in the past. Unlike in previous seasons, Schultz does sometimes take the body, but he doesn't do it recklessly or blindly. He uses it as one tool among many that he's got, he's using all those tools with increasing effectiveness as the situation demands, and he's very good at reading a play and determining which approach will best serve in the blink of an eye.

fanohock1, namecalling isn't necessary and I do see his point.

cstanton1, I think you're stuck in a mental rut. There isn't just one right answer, and the Caps today are not the Caps of the 1990's. They have different solutions, tailored to today's NHL, and there's nothing wrong with that. Try keeping a more open mind about what is and is not effective.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 29, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

One more point that I should bring up in this debate - right now, it may not be a good idea for the Caps to do a lot of hitting and finishing checks, because given the way things have been going with Ovechkin in particular, they're going to get thrown in the box if the ref is feeling off that day, and getting thrown in the box helps absolutely nobody. They need to be very, very cautious about their hitting right now.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 29, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

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