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A.O. Named Second Star of Week

The Caps' three-day break comes to an end at 2 p.m. when the players return to the ice for practice at KCI. The big thing this week will be the status of Chris Clark (groin) and Brian Pothier (concussion). The Caps have been winning without them, but they're clearly better with their veterans in the lineup.

I'll be there, so check back for the latest. Also, my chat has been bumped up to 1 p.m.

A few moments ago, the NHL named its three stars of last week: Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson was the first star, Alex Ovechkin was the second star and Columbus goalie Pascal LeClaire was the third star.

From the NHL:

Ovechkin tallied six points (three goals, three assists) in three games as the Capitals posted a 2-1-0 record and moved within one point of the Southeast Division lead. He notched two goals and an assist in a 6-5 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Jan. 21, scored one goal in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 23 and recorded assists on both Washington goals in a 2-1 victory over Toronto Jan. 24. Ovechkin entered the All-Star break with a seven-game point streak (7-7--14) and has 25-17--42 and a +11 rating in 29 games since Bruce Boudreau was named head coach.

While all of that is impressive, plus-11 is the key stat for me. Remember, he was a minus-19 last season.

Update: Clark and Pothier are not practicing. Neither is Ovechkin, who is here and but resting.

Update: It also appears that Brent Johnson will start in goal in Montreal tomorrow. Morrisonn, meantime, will be a game-time decision.


By Tarik El-Bashir  |  January 28, 2008; 10:55 AM ET
 
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Next: Morrisonn Out vs. Montreal; Tonight's Lineup

Comments

Awesome stuff. I'm gonna try and make practice...

Hopefully those guys will recover soon enough. I'd love to see what this team could do when all are Healthy (sans Nylander)

Posted by: Go Skins Go | January 28, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

between that, this weekends all-star coverage of ovechkin, it seems that the NHL is putting all it's eggs in the Ovie basket now that cindy is out.

good for him.

Posted by: jamebow | January 28, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Putting the egss in the Ovie basket could be a good thing. While the NHL needs to market all of its young stars, more people might get to the see the personable side of Ovechkin. He definitely outranks Crosby in that category.

Did anyone catch Commissioner Bettman during the ASG talking about the schedule? This guy is a complete moron. He goes on rambling how the best attended matches are the divisional games yet every city doesn't get to see the stars of every team. You would think that would be Marketing 101, branching out to attract new fans. I'd love to see our attendace records of divisional games vs conference games ;)

Posted by: Don-Ald | January 28, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Tarik, your article on Backstrom and Ovie was fantastic. The thought of these two guys playing together for the next decade has me thinking multiple Stanley Cups. to paraphrase AO, "It's good to be a Washington Caps fan."

Posted by: b.orr4 | January 28, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

At the end of the game last night, when Bettman was introduced, the crowd booed. Bettman turned to the others standing with him and gestured as if to say, "I'm used to being booed by the fans of the sporrt I run." Pitiful.

Posted by: Lee | January 28, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

@Lee

Yes, you could see him telling them ahead of time "watch me get boo'd." What a loser, but we already knew that. When he talks, he sounds like a total nitwit. Oh wait, he IS. Loved Legace getting on his case for coming down hard on goalies: "hey, I'm only 5'9"!"

Posted by: on ice | January 28, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Tarik,
Just want to pass on many thanks for all the info. over the weekend. I am happy for you that you must be getting quite a bit of attention from other media members inquiring about AO and Backstrom. When they ask you what AO is like, do you simply reply "2 words: Unbridled Joy"?

Posted by: on ice | January 28, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Wow, this division is terrible!
The Caps are pretty much in a dead heat for first given games in-hand. But one less win and they are battling for 4th?!

The Two worst teams in the Atlantic division would be in first place in the Southeast.

I think the Caps would do well to use the rest of the Conference as their measuring stick now and move beyond dogfighting with these turkeys!

Posted by: Icebat | January 28, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

...oh, specifically I think they need to focus on the fact that they'd need 8 more points right now to be in 3rd place Legitimately.

Posted by: Icebat | January 28, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

@Don-Ald

I agree that diversity of opponents is a good thing...but down the stretch games vs. Atlanta, Carolina, even Florida will have a serious playoff atmosphere..These games are huge, and I expect large crowds for these playoff run match-ups.

Posted by: SA-Town | January 28, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

@Icebat

How many cups have the Southeast won lately? You dont want none in the playoffs.

Posted by: SA-Town | January 28, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

@ icebat -- third place in the conference "legitimately" goes to the winner of one of the three divisions. I understand your point, but until the NHL changes the rules, that's how it is. And I think the Caps are focused on winning as many games as possible down the stretch, whether that means 3rd place, 8th place, etc.

As for Bettman, I'm not sure whose face I'd want in the center of my dartboard more -- his or Dan Snyder's...

Posted by: Jill | January 28, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

In the aftermath of All-Star break it is also crucial for Caps that I will come back with some half slap winning shots and hits.

Posted by: Papa Schultz | January 28, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Papa Schutlz,

Could you actually hit someone too?

Posted by: Lee | January 28, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Tarik please post the link to the chat, its very difficult to find on the washpo website. It should be a main link on the capitals page.

Posted by: TJ | January 28, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Icebat,

Weak as the division is, that's a good thing for the Caps at this point because winning it is the surest route to the playoffs. If all teams continue their trends over the last few months, the Caps will win it handily, and I think they outclass all teams in the Southeast in terms of raw talent on the ice.

I think that their primary objective at this point should be to get on top of the division and build a healthy buffer between them and the #2 team. Once they're on top, the objective should be to earn enough points that even if the NHL weren't using the division-seeded standings, the Caps would still be in the playoffs - just to shut the naysayers up.

The division is especially important right now because 15 of the 32 games remaining in the regular season are against divisional opponents. It's going to be a make or break opportunity, and if they want to be playing hockey on April 9th, it's a challenge that they must take decisively.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 28, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Icebat

Ask your buddies who are Redwings fans how much fun it is to win the Presidents Trophy and then get smoked by either Anaheim or Colorado.

Posted by: Esa Tikkanen | January 28, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

TJ,

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/01/24/DI2008012401571.html

The easiest way to find it is to go to the main WaPo page and scroll about 3/4 of the way down to the "Discussions" section on the left side of the page.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 28, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

HolyOlie - TY

Posted by: TJ | January 28, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Esa,

Or the Buffalosers, for that matter.

"NY State Champions!"

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 28, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

If we worry about where we stand amongst loser teams (that we won't be facing in the playoffs) we will get a rude awakening in the playoffs.

That doesn't mean we underestimate them when we meet them, we just need to set our goals higher than winning the division. The Cap's comparative record in the league should reflect their talent and ability as a team.

Right now our record says we are the worst or second to worst team in every other division except one. This team is better than that.

Posted by: Icebat | January 28, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Icebat,

I understand where you're coming from, but what I'm saying is that there's a ways to go, and we'll be seeing plenty of action with more highly touted EC teams over this 32 game stretch as well. The Caps have taken it to just about every top-echelon team in the NHL this season and held their own if not beat the crap out of them.

I'm saying that we need to get firmly on top of this division before we look at anyone else's. Regardless of whether or not the Caps deserve to be where they are (and keep in mind that it was their sloppy play that got them there), they need to take solid control of their own turf and keep it locked up if they even want to have a chance at worrying about the rest of the conference in April.

The only way up is to win, regardless of the opponent. It's hard to characterize one's opponent as a "loser team" when you're sitting right there in the bottom half of the conference and league with them.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 28, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

@ IceBat

"I think the Caps would do well to use the rest of the Conference as their measuring stick now and move beyond dogfighting with these turkeys!"

Like sweeping the Seanators????

Honestly, I think the best measuring stick Is B.B.B. (before Bruce Boudreu) and A.B.B. (i'll let you figure that one out on your own). The caps have one of the three best records in the league A.B.B. Should only get better as the season plays out.

Posted by: Sombrero Guy | January 28, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

@ Icebat again

sorry if that came across harsh, I was not trying to be confrontational. I just think the caps can hold their own with any team in the league at this point. Especially if Kolzig can get refocused.

Posted by: Sombrero Guy | January 28, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

@Lee

I can hit the penguin

http://beust.com/penguin/index.html

Posted by: Papa Schultz | January 28, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

@Icebat

The standings mean nothing once you get in the playoffs. A teams record over the last 20-30 games of the season means much more.

Posted by: SA-Town | January 28, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Papa Schultz | January 28, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"Ovechkin, who is here and but resting." butresting :)

Posted by: Finn | January 28, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter what division the Caps are in as long as they get to the playoffs. The playoffs in hockey, unlike the NFL and NBA, are wide open. Home ice advantage is nice, but seeding doesn't matter as much as match-ups -- you think the Sens want to see the Caps get the 8th seed?

Posted by: JIM | January 28, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

It looks like the Caps need to look for a replacement for Clark. His groin seems to need surgery or a prolonged recovery -- either way, he is out of shape. If the Caps can find a good rent-a-player at the trade deadline, they'd be better off. Clark can come back bext year.

Posted by: JIM | January 28, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Ya, I think we've beat this horse enough for now. I just don't think winning this particular division is the best performance motivator we have available.

Hopefully GMGM loaded Ovie's contract with free iPod performance bonuses.

Posted by: Icebat | January 28, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Tarik,

Thanks for the update, even its a little hard to swallow...
Its bad enough we already lost Nylander - do you think maybe those two are done for the season as well?

Posted by: captnclark | January 28, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Who can the Caps get before the deadline without having to give up a good prospect? Some teams have guys becoming free agents this summer who could help out the Caps. Who wants to play the fantasy player rumor game? I wonder if the Bolts will trade away Lacavalier or St. Louis? Hossa is in the last year of his contract with Atl -- who knows? Probably not, but any of those three would make for an interesting last couple months of the season.

Posted by: JIM | January 28, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

What about Beech? Did I say that.

Posted by: Esa Tikkanen | January 28, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

@ Ese --

Just wait -- he'll be on waivers for the 5th time before the month is out (Beech that is)

Posted by: JIM | January 28, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: TJ | January 28, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I like Clarkie as much as anybody but what are the line combinations going to be when he comes back? Who sits down? Only one other team has scored more goals since Thanksgiving (American) than we have. Clarkie had one good year and all of a sudden he's John LeClaire a few years back. I don't get it. Maybe it's his D. I still don't get it.

Posted by: Esa Tikkanen | January 28, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

might simply add that Clarkie was also leading BY FAR in PIMS before getting hurt. And I can personally attest that many of those were of the bone-headed variety. He's our captain and you gotta love him but still...

speaking of boneheaded PIMS...anyone else notice that we seem to be taking an inordinate amount of offensive zone infractions? Is this simply a negative side effect of an otherwise phenomenal Boudreau system or something more?

Posted by: MTB | January 28, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I guess there are two major ideas for lines when Clark returns. If you feel the 2nd line needs a more offensive center, you move Clark to the top line and Kozlov can center the 2nd line. If you feel Gordon/Steckel are okay on the 2nd line, you just replace Pettinger with Clark. Either way, I think Petty sits.

Posted by: tallbear | January 28, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Do you really think Clark is coming back this year? He's gotta be way outta game-shape by now and he plays a game, then sits out a month -- what's the point?

Posted by: JIM | January 28, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The side effect is "Washington penalty - number 28 - two minutes for hooking".

Posted by: Esa Tikkanen | January 28, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

If they keep the top 2 lines the way they are (although I could see them swapping Kozlov to the 2nd line and putting Clark on the first - once he gets back into game shape), then I would imagine that Clark would be on the third line, Bradley would be moved to the 4th and Petty would be sitting.

Posted by: Jordana | January 28, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I wouldnt want to move Kozlov right now - he's been playing great and finding the net as of late. Clarkie doesnt sound like he is coming back soon though...

Good news about Johnny - lets go with the hot goaltender until otherwise needed. He;'s playing well, so why not

Posted by: cs | January 28, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

@MTB,

Yea, but Clarkie picked up something like 17 penalty minutes on one play. That does make that stat a wee bit lopsided.

Posted by: Steve R | January 28, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

All that I know is Malkin's head looks like about 8lbs of chewed bubble gum.

Posted by: Pothier's Thumb | January 28, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

can we just give Ovie the C now?

i always though clark's was named captain more or less by default anyhow. at the time he was named captain, we didn't have too many options.

Posted by: jamebow | January 28, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

One reason that I think we will need Clark back when we make the playoff run is that he has playoff experience. Also, he is way cooler than any other team's Captains.

I am so excited to see how the boys perform in this final stretch (and very optimistic). We have talked to several friends, and the common theme is how everyone is just giddy about the Caps.

Posted by: Kim | January 28, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Tarik,

So it does sound like Clarkie is more serious and probably requires surgery. I for one am very bummed. I love watching him play. Hope we are all wrong and see him back soon. He's a contributor.

Posted by: Tracy | January 28, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

How good would Mats Sundin look in a Caps sweater? Nylander's out, Clark is basically out. Is that too far fetched?

Posted by: Phil C. | January 28, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

@Phil C.

While I would love it, Sundin has a no trade clause so he would have to WANT to come here. Also, the Leafs would more than likely move him to a Western Conference team than an Eastern team PLUS I think the Leafs would want more in return than we're willing to give.

Posted by: Sombrero Guy | January 28, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

No Sundin, please. If Kozlov and Semin keep going at their recent pace, we'll be good for goal scoring. I think we need a real solid veteran defenseman.

Just like every other team.

Posted by: Jordan | January 28, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

hey guys...im not a huge hockey fan but ive got some interest in the caps. i love ovechkin and his amazing scoring ability, but i have one question... with a.o. probably leading the lead in shots, (not a big stat guy either) is it possible that he could be slightly hurting the team at times by not moving the puck around enough, or is he made to be a scorer and his shooting only does good. again, if this sounds crazy, i apologize. what do you think?

Posted by: jhosports | January 28, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Phil C,

Come in to my office.
Have a seat my good friend.

How is your grandmother enjoying her retirement community now? Good? Are they treating her better now?
Ah, yes, yes....

I have done many favors for you over the years haven't I? I always do what I can to help my friends.

Now, to this Sundin matter.
I'm afraid that just wouldn't be good business for our friends in the north. It's business, not personal.

Grab an orange on the way out.

Posted by: Don Leonsis | January 28, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Next time somebody throws Sundin's name out there -- please list the assets you'd be willing to give up for him, lest people begin to believe that it's just a matter of forking over a bit of cash.

Not even getting into "why the hell would Sundin want to play for Caps this year", would you give up Alzner and a 1st for Sundin? No? Then let's drop this pipe-dream, and keep building up this team's future, instead of gutting it.

Posted by: Vlad | January 28, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

It was just a thought. New GM, TO isn't that good this year. Heck if you read that article last week that someone linked (can't remember who, but it was to a TO newspaper) the guy was saying there is no future up there and that it's all here. Sure, I have no idea what we'd have to give up and I know they would probably want too much, but since he's getting older and all... bah, who am I kidding. No chance. So who are the D that are going to be available?

Posted by: Phil C. | January 28, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

jhosports,

AO's shot and goal totals are purely a result of the energy with which he plays. He doesn't seem to have much of a problem moving the puck to his linemates, and his assist numbers bear that out. He makes things happen and he's definitely a team player. He is a fountain of pure awesome.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 28, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Rumor mill is that Philly would be willing to give up Jeff Carter and a pick for Sundin.

Personally, I would think thats a bad move.
Carter is a solid centerman.

Posted by: JamesD | January 28, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

This season, more than I think I have ever seen, there are a ton of teams on the bubble for the playoffs. I think that the Bolts, the Leafs, and the Kings are going to be the only teams that can really be expected to be sellers at this point. It's going to be a seller's market come the trade deadline, and what little talent is on the table isn't going to come cheap by any stretch.

Unless the tradeoff is a highly talented young goaltender or a solid young #1 blueliner who have at least a couple of years left on their contract, GMGM shouldn't even listen to deals involving our prospects. As for picks, yes, we've got a lot stocked up this year, but this is also expected to be a very good and deep draft pool, and GMGM should be looking to get everything out of it that he can.

Long story short, I doubt that there will be any major moves at the deadline - but if there are, they had better be smart and have a high, immediate, and lengthy return.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 28, 2008 6:20 PM | Report abuse

The Sabres may be willing to trade Campbell because he stopped trade talks until the season is over and the mgt has to remember how well that worked with Bierre and the others. The Hockey News and The Sporting News are both writing the Campbell may be dealt story.

Posted by: JIM | January 28, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

@Holyolie,

"A fountain of pure awesome" That is genius. Love it!

I think Nicky has really fallen into his role as the puck mover on that line. The kid has amazing vision, and as we now see an equally amazing chemistry with Ovie. I think Nicky has also finally managed to bring out Kozlov. Guess I have to start calling him Nick now (Nicky is all too before the All-Star game).

Posted by: Kim | January 28, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

GMGM isn't making any moves this trade deadline. Bank on it. The Caps are the model of the NHL right now in terms of draft picks and developing young kids. Ted and GMGM will stick to their plan. Can you blame them?

Posted by: Esa Tikkanen | January 28, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

BJ! BJ! BJ! BJ!

Posted by: Trevor | January 28, 2008 8:50 PM | Report abuse

>The kid has amazing vision

Still see it...Still see it...Still see it...

Posted by: Papa Schultz | January 28, 2008 9:07 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait for the second half of the season to get underway! I just bought the trial season tickets today (so I have tickets to the remaining 16 home games)! I'm pumped!

Let's Go Caps!!!!

Posted by: Travis | January 28, 2008 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey Travis

What took you so long? Nothing like a winner, heh.

Posted by: Esa Tikkanen | January 28, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone seen the Mr. Potato Head commercial? You can see it at NHL.com. I really do want one!!! I wonder if I can pass for 14?!?

Anyway, what's the chatter about Sundin?!?

Posted by: Boo! | January 28, 2008 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Esa:

Actually, I've been to every home game so far this season. I was paying my uncle for his season tickets and using his, but now that the Caps are playing good hockey he has decided that he wants to start going. I hate fair weather fans.

Posted by: Travis | January 28, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

@Travis
You got your uncle season tickets that you were using?
Somehow that reminds me of when I was a kid, mother's day: "here mommie, I got you the latest Metallica CD" *puppy eyes*

Posted by: mauree | January 28, 2008 11:37 PM | Report abuse

...sniff...sniff. There are only 16 games left? :(

That week-long homestand ate up the games fast.

Well, there's always the playoffs. :)

Posted by: keef | January 29, 2008 12:38 AM | Report abuse

@ KEEF

Your damn right the p word is there!

Posted by: Super | January 29, 2008 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone seen the Quintin Laing's Crib video on the Caps video player? What's all the talk about not knowing how long he'll be up here? Quintin will never leave us! I won't let it happen. I'm sure he's just saying it because he's thankful and doesn't want to get to presumtuous, but still.

Posted by: Stephen | January 29, 2008 12:57 AM | Report abuse

Forget Sundin, GMGM and Uncle Ted won't waste long term assets to give us an extra burst for this year. Unless a deal comes along that gives us an impact player with some time left on a contract we shouldn't be interested. We are only seeing the beginning of this team's potential and risking young talent that will help over the run of the next 5+ years for short term gains would not make sense.

Posted by: TheCapitalist | January 29, 2008 6:26 AM | Report abuse

Brian Campbell might be a good investment, if he can be had for players and picks. Trade Eminger, Pettinger, (and maybe Flash if Fehr/Clark can return) and a pick. Campbell stopped negotiations until this summer, ala Bierre, so the Sabres may be desperate to get something before BC becomes a UFA. His numbers are impressive: 48 points and +28 last year and 33 points +1 on a very lousy Sabres team. The way the Sabres are free-falling, they may be sellers by the trade deadline. Getting a quality blue-liner with Pothier out with a concussion could really help. He's also 27 years old.

Posted by: JIM | January 29, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I'd stick with what we have and not trade away any of the young guys. AO, Backstrom, Green...let this be a season to develop and get playoff experience. Lets see how the ABB period (thanks, Sambrero guy) works through the rest of the year.

Longer term, we may need those young guys (not those mentioned above, but the kids in the minors) to get us a goalie.

Posted by: Caps fan in NJ | January 29, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

I agree we definately need another defensemen...a veteran one...and not necessarily an offensive defenseman. How does everyone feel about our goaltending if we do make it into the playoffs? Do you guys think they can hang to take us farther? Or are we thinking we'll make it to the playoffs but not make it very far?
Just curious what everyone is thinking. I'm still relatively new to hockey so I like to hear everyone's opinions....

Posted by: K | January 29, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

From SI:

MVP: Alexander Ovechkin. Leading the league in both goals and enthusiasm, Ovechkin has established himself as the game's most dangerous and, with apologies to Sid, must-see player.

BEYOND EXPECTATIONS: Mike Green.The Caps' other first round pick in 2004, Green has provided the offensive punch from the blueline they've lacked since dealing Sergei Gonchar to the Bruins that same year. Green has 6-6-12 totals so far this month, and his 14 goals lead all NHL defenders.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Olaf Kolzig. The veteran stopper's been the heart and soul of the franchise for a decade, but his reputation isn't helping him stop pucks. His 3.10 GAA ranks 42nd and his .885 save percentage ranks 45th -- dead last. The Caps are winning in spite of him, not because of him& and that has to change.

HARDWARE HOPEFULS: Ovechkin (Richard, Art Ross, Hart), Nicklas Backsrom (Calder), Boudreau (Adams)

Posted by: Finn | January 29, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

We've beaten the goaltending beyond death. It's not going to steal a series. The Caps have to be like the '90s Penguins and basically win games with offense. I'm not sure how our young guys will react, so trying to predict potential postseason success is hard. We can probably win a series though.

Posted by: tallbear | January 29, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

We do need another blueliner and another goalie, but I just don't see it realistically happening during this season. The price would simply be too high and would be a reversal of the team's philosophy of building from within. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that the philosophy is paying off big time right now and for the foreseeable future.

This team is expected to make the playoffs this year - that was the goal laid out by management, and a goal that looks very much attainable right now, but they're not expected to contend for the Cup. They're too green, the defense is too weak and the goaltending is too shaky (prove me wrong, boys!). It's not worth it to sell off our hard earned and well cultivated young assets for some short term rentals who are fast heading into the twilight of their careers (Sundin).

The smart time to acquire hole-filling talent is going to be the opening of the UFA period this summer. This season has been a demonstration to the entire hockey viewing world of what the Capitals are building and the ownership's commitment to it - and those people are definitely taking notice. Good hockey players are going to want to come to Washington like never before.

Patience is what has gotten this team where it is, and it will take a little bit more to turn it into a true contender worthy of Lord Stanley's Cup. Selling the future of this team when it is so close to fruition out of starry-eyed glee over making the playoffs for the first time in 5 years would end up being a regrettable move - mark my words.

It's just one man's opinion, but please keep this in mind before any of you start calling for GMGM's head on a platter over his lack of movement in the run-up to the Feb 26th deadline.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 29, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

HolyOlie...why would people stop calling for GMGM's head now (people are STILL saying he needs to go, and is a "dead man walking", etc)? The team that is on the ice today is actually worse (due to injuries) than the team that opened the season with high expectations.

Just 2 months ago nearly everyone wanted GMGM out, but HIS players (and the lowest payroll in the East) are right in the thick of the playoff hunt. This team has an extremely bright future, and while it took a few lean years to get this team on track, I think GMGM deserves some credit for the direction this team is headed.

Posted by: Jeff | January 29, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

@K
In my opinion, I think that Johnson is a good goal-tender and should be playing most of the games in the second half of the season. A lot of people do not think much of him, but I think that is due to lack of playing time. He has a career 2,61 GAA and .901 Saving % during the regular season; the numbers are bit high, but one must take into consideration the three years with the Caps for which he plays sparingly. During his playoffs appearances he has a 1.83 and .931 record with 3 shut-outs.
I think Olie was a superb goalie, however, his reflexes are not what they used to be and the game is faster. He gives too many uncontrolled rebounds and with some of our defenders that is not a good thing to do. Don't get me wrong, he has his times of great plays, but it only takes a few bad plays to doom the game.
I think next year we should have Johnson as the number 1 goalie and have one of the two young prospects the Caps currently own as a backup until they are ready to take over.
That is my opinion. I hope you get more responses, I would like to hear it myself.

Posted by: Opita | January 29, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Jeff,

I know, I know... I'm just trying to help. I hopped on the bandwagon myself about a month before Hanlon got canned (and I still think the anger was thoroughly justified... no way Hanlon should have been left in there as long as he was) and I remained a bit irritated with him until he signed AO. I think that with the coming around of the team, the installation of Boudreau, and the signing of Ovechkin, he's earned himself a reprieve. Being a GM is a thankless lot in life unless your team wins a cup, and I applaud him for making the right moves, if a bit late.

Also, I hate to feed the beast considering what I just posted, but if you really want to know who's out there this pre-deadline period, here's a great rundown from TSN:

http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/mckenzie/?id=228378

If GMGM can pull some magic out of his butt and land one of the big names on that list for very little in return, I say go for it. But I stand by my opinion that it's about as likely to happen as peace in the Middle East.

One more thing before anyone suggests it: Ray Emery's days in Ottawa are widely considered to be numbered as he showed up late to yet another practice. All I have to say about this is "no," "absolutely not," and, "hell no."

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 29, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Just in the vein of full disclosure -- I myself have said that GMGM should go at the end of the year if the Caps don't make the playoffs.

That said, I really think he's done a good job retooling this team given the extreme financial limitations over the last few seasons.

No question the guy has made mistakes and bad trades and bad draft picks. I think it's safe to say that ALL GM's have moves they'd like to reverse.

People have complained about the salary dump and how we got nothing in return for it. Well, last I looked by dumping salary (and dropping in the standings) we ended up with OV, we also got Morissonn, the pick to draft Green, Schultz (and yes, I realize many people dislike him), Flash, Laich, and others. Sometimes you have to take your lumps to rebuild, and I think the drafting the last few years has improved. Getting Jurcina (even with his flaws) for a 4th rounder was a great trade. Getting Clark for a late pick (4th?) was obviously a steal.

There ARE flaws on the roster that need attention -- but I think most people on this board are getting excited about how this team has played the last few months and are excited about what the future holds...and a lot of that can be tied to GMGM (and in fairness, a TON to BB).

Posted by: Jeff | January 29, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

What Center Ice Channel on Directv is the game tonight on?

Posted by: T Sizzle | January 29, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I dont know if anyone has said this before...

But, if we get 6 goals tonight, we win!!!

Posted by: 828 | January 29, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Jeff,

Dont forget - with the CAPS not selling out the VC, they are establishing a great road team as well. If they can play at home with the other teams' fans yelling, they can play any where. It just won't matter. The VC will sell out eventually with just Cap fans... however, these last couple of years have been pretty weak.

Follow me?

Posted by: 828 | January 29, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

@ HolyOllie

I agree that the Caps should not trade away any of the young talent on the ice (Semin, Green, OV, or Backstrom), much less AHL up and comers (McChesney, Fehr) and no way on the OHL/WHL prospects (too many to list, but Alzner, Russian goalies, etc...). But if the Caps can trade for a rent-a-center, rw, or blueliner for Eminger, Pettinger, and Schultz (depends what/who they are trading for), then why not? The Caps may be able to sign an UFA like Campbell or a RFA like the three in Nashville that probably won't get resigned due to ownership issues and very poor attendance (may miss the minimum to qualify for revenue sharing).

Posted by: JIM | January 29, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

828, I get your point, but how did that relate to my post?

Posted by: Jeff | January 29, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

How has GMGM retooled the team? Its the same team that everyone complained about 3 months ago. He did not retool anything. They players just started playing.

Posted by: Tommmy | January 29, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm vehemently against bringing one of our young keepers in to play in a back up role next year. Backing up another goalie (one of Johnson's caliber even) will do nothing but hurt the development of the youngin. This team needs a stop gap #1 for 2-3 years until one of the younger keepers is ready to step up. Until then, keep them in Hershey or Juniors where they can get actual playing time.

Posted by: Yosh | January 29, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Tommmy

GMGM retooled the team by drafting, signing and/or trading for all of the players. He's just being pulled out of the fire (finally) because the team is finally achieving some chemistry and are performing at the level they've been expected too.

The only mistake he's made this year (and embarrassingly enough I was behind it) was that he stuck with Hanlon for too long.

Posted by: Yosh | January 29, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Jim,

That's exactly what I meant in the 10:35 post by referring to the possibility that "GMGM can pull some magic out of his butt and land one of the big names on that list for very little in return." I'd be thrilled if he pulled it off without damaging the core of the present and future team and our drafting abilities this summer. But considering how many teams there are at the moment who are theoretically in the playoff hunt, I think this year is really going to be a seller's market as teams wait until the last minute to make sure they're going to be playing golf in April. Unless some more teams start seriously tanking in the next week or two, talent for the playoff run is going to be very, very pricey this year.

I don't think that talent like Hossa or Campbell are going to be coming as cheap as Pettinger and/or Eminger and Schultz. More like one of them and a couple of picks in a deep and talented draft that we could really use - for players that could be leaving the Caps and heading off into UFA come July. Those are guys that a lot of teams are going to be hunting for, and probably at least a few of them are going to be willing to give up more than the Caps should be willing to give.

I just don't think this is a good year for deadline deals as far as the Caps go (and again, if some teams hit the wall in the very near future this could change quickly). It's just how I see it... God only knows what GMGM is or isn't plotting.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 29, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Yosh,

I agree completely regarding the Caps' future goaltenders.

Posted by: HolyOlie | January 29, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

@ HolyOllie,

You are probably right that Petty, Emmy, and Schultz may not be enough -- maybe Flash, too (although BB sees a lot in Flash from their AHL days). It will be a seller's market, but Buffalo is tanking right now, so they may want to move Campbell instead of getting nothing for him. I think Campbell would be a good replacement for Pothier until he can play again. The Bolts may want to trade one of their big three away for defense/goalie help. Trade either Ollie/Johnson and pull up McChesney as the back up. Nashville may need to sell for picks. The Rangers, if they continue to fall apart, may even want to unload Drury with his crappy numbers and the Caps could use a center. You are right -- it all depends on how the next month shakes out.

Posted by: JIM | January 29, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

@yosh and HollyOllie
In my comments about goalies, notice I said they will be backups until they are ready to take over, how long that will take is up to them.
Let me ask you, in the case of Varlamov, how much more do you think he needs to prepare in order to jump to the NHL? This guy not only has international experience, having appeared multiple times in the World Junior Championship, and if I am not mistaken invited to be part of the 2007 Team Russia, but he is playing on the Russian Super League and doing well.
He is almost 20, so next year he will be 21. Is that too young? Why should that matter? I think age is relative, and experience is more important. He was drafted in the first round of 2006; Pavelec of Atlanta was draftet on the 2nd round of 2005 and he is already playing and getting experience at the NHL level, and he is not the only goalie from the 2005 draft.
Don't take the following the wrong way, but what you guys are suggesting makes as much sense as buying a luxury car and then keeping it in the garage because you are afraid it will be scratched. I say, take a chance, and we all agree, I think, we need to shore that position.

Posted by: Opita | January 29, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Opita,

Not all goalies are alike and you shouldn't take the luxury car out of the garage before it's road ready. I agree that age isn't as much of a factor that some people make it out to be, but all evaluations of his development say he's still a couple of years away from being NHL ready.

Though the Super League is about as close as you can get, nothing compares to the NHL. Varlamov and Neuvirth are both tremendous prospects - I remember watching them both closely at the rookie development camp last fall, but they're both going to need time at the AHL level before they make it up (Pavelec spent two seasons in the Quebec League before getting called up for a few games with Atlanta). North American hockey is a very different beast than international hockey - you see a lot more net crashing and goaltenders don't have nearly as much room to maneuver.

They're both going to be good, probably very good, but they're still a good 2 or 3 years away as far as their development goes. We need someone in net to bridge that timeframe, and it had been assumed that Olie still had a couple of seasons left in him. Now it looks like he's hitting the wall early. This team needs a seasoned goalie to ride until Varlamov and/or Neuvirth are ready to take it over.

I think that Varlamov should head to Hershey next season to start getting acclimated to North American hockey with some real ice time, and Neuvirth should spend another year or so in the OHL.

Their time is coming, but goalies require patience.

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