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Posted at 1:57 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011

Capitals' speedy third line looks promising

By Greg Schimmel

Marco Sturm steps on it during the Capitals' game against the Blues. (Toni L. Sandys/Washington Post)


After one full game together, the Capitals' newly-assembled third line has already shown plenty of potential.

Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson and Marco Sturm make up the so-called "Wheels Line," and all three have tremendous speed that could make for a fun line to watch if it remains intact down the stretch.

The trio didn't account for any goals in its debut during the Caps' 3-2 win over St. Louis on Thursday, but it wasn't for a lack of opportunities.

"We should have had four or five goals," Chimera said. "We can create so much. We've got so much speed that they have to haul you down if they're behind you."

Johansson has continued to improve throughout his rookie season and Sturm is still climbing back to full health after his recent knee troubles, so if Bruce Boudreau keeps this combination together it could continue to peak.

Boudreau is known to tinker with his forwards, but the line is going to enjoy its time together while it lasts.

"You always want to play with speed and you make it harder for the opponent to defend against you," Johansson said. "The more we get to play together, I think the better it's going to be. It's a fun line to play on and I think the longer the game went [Thursday] the better we played."

By Greg Schimmel  | March 4, 2011; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  Jason Chimera, Marco Sturm, Marcus Johansson  
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Next: Capitals pin power-play hopes on Dennis Wideman

Comments

I would really like BB to lock the lines, as I think they look great.

Don't know what happens with Fehr and Beagle when they come back.

Posted by: Jordan_Kitts | March 4, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

When Fehr comes back, he should be designated to post game meal setup and taping sticks.

Beagle should replace Chimera.

Green should replace Schultz. Poty should help Fehr.

And this guy they call "Varley"....? No idea, never seen him actually play this year.

Posted by: SoaringCaps | March 4, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

@ Soaring.

Done and done. Take it to top.

Posted by: Jordan_Kitts | March 4, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Once the playoffs come along, and assuming all D are healthy except Poti, I really think the top two D pairing will be

Alzner/Carlson; and
Hannan/Wideman

I really do not see Schulz/Green being used for many important defensive zone faceoffs. Which could be very good for Green as he will get beat up less and have less pressure on him. In addition, they may be able to avoid having to play against the opposing team's top line very often. Think how much of a dramatic change that is compared to last year when Schulz/Green were often facing the opposing team's top line. Now they will face the opposing team's 3rd or 4th line.

This isn't meant as a knock on Green, but if it is the 3rd period in a tie game or with the Caps leading by 1 and there is a defensive zone faceoff, I would want either Carlzner or Hannan/Wideman on the ice than Schulz/Green.

Also, compare last year's D to this year's D.

You have pretty much substituted Carlzner, Hannan, and Wideman for Pothier, ShaMo, Jurcina, Corvo, Poti(assuming he is injured). The talent of the D is much improved, especially in puck moving ability without giving up much physicality(Alzner, Wideman, Carslon and Hannan all play with at least a decent amount to a good amount of physicality).

Posted by: sgm3 | March 4, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Bad news about Varly. Kid can't seem to stay healthy.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | March 4, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

@sgm

The pairings for playoffs should be Carlzner, Hannan/Green, Wideman/Erskine and ****55 should be exiled for the playoffs the way Rock Star was the 2nd half of the season last year. I mean, I could list countless times this year the Oaf was awful. Anyone else notice that early in the 3rd, when the Blues crashed our net and almost everyone on the ice was piled up in the crease, ****55 was standing on the outside helplessly looking in? Boy, I didn't see that one coming. And Carlson physical? I guess when compared to Poti and ****55 he is.

GIVE BB HIS WALKING PAPERS!! (two)

Posted by: vermontcaps | March 4, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

This line needs to stay together, its too awesome. We now have three very legitimate lines. Couple that with our new Defense and bam, we are growing into a very well rounded team.

I think I am more excited about the playoff prospects of this year than last years - simply because of how well rounded our team is becoming.

Watching our top 3 lines did WORK last night and with the checking line providing the energy it made me full on moist. Slowly but surely we are building momentum - we just have to start games with more enthusiasm and not play down to our opponents.

C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS

Posted by: capsfreak66 | March 4, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Carlson 0.88 -0.12 1
Alzner 0.63 0.03 0.6
Green 0.21 0.37 -0.16
Schultz -0.06 0.56 -0.62
Erskine -0.15 0.54 -0.69
Hannan -0.3 0.62 -0.92
Poti -0.61 0.44 -1.05
Sloan -0.93 0.53 -1.46
Wideman -1.28 0.25 -1.53

The three columns after the players name is their +/- per 60 when on the ice, their +/- per 60 when off the ice, and then the difference between the two.

Overall not super suprising, Wideman is a confounding variable because of him being on FLA. Schultz is higher than I thought, Hannan Lower, and everyone else about where I expected.

I wouldn't be worried about having Green on the ice late in the third with a tie or a small lead.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 4, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Yea. They would have had three or four goals if Chimera wasn't on the line with his stick of concrete.

Where did the Chimera go that showed up when he was first traded for?? Now all he does is skate real fast until he gets across the blueline, then fires a shot to the goalie's chest from way outside the circles. Wash, rinse, repeat. "Fast" isn't any good if you can't do anything with it. See "Rico Fatta".

Posted by: rblatch45 | March 4, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Vermont, but Erskine looked too much like his old pylon self last night and for the last couple of games quite frankly. Her got beat BADLY last night. I would rather have Green and Schultz with your boy sitting when Green gets back.

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | March 4, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Looking at the difference between GA on and GA off yields similar numbers. Only Sloan and Poti are switched and they're both horrible anyway.

It's interesting that Carlson, Alzner, and Green are our only 3 D-Men who it's more likely that we allow a GA when they're off the ice than when they're on.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 4, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, as much as I like 4 and loathe 55, the numbers suggest that, giving Wideman the benefit of the doubt, the pairings should be:

Carlson/Alzner
Green/Wideman
Hannan/Shultz

One could make a case for 55 on the 2nd line, but I won't. I think he's perfect right there on 3, and I think that Wideman and Hannan could be interchangeable.

I'd also argue that it's opponent dependent and you could make a case for switching 4 and 55 based on opponent.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 4, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Nothing wrong with Erskine that a few days off won't cure. He will be needed in the playoffs. He plays a physical game, which results in some wear and tear. Keep him fresh and he will be fine.

Posted by: zmega | March 4, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

zmega,

Agreed, he and Carlson both need a few days off. Schultz's slowness is what drives me absolutely nuts.

Posted by: PhilR | March 4, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

If Fehr comes back I say he and Strum should trade games until the end of the season to keep Strum's knee good for the playoffs. I would rotate 7 D giving everyone a day or two off when Green gets back and Beagle only comes in if someone else needs a day off. That is just if I ran things.

Posted by: icehammer97 | March 4, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Duff, I would switch up your last two pairings. Green and Wideman makes sense on the PP point, but not as a regular pairing. I would go with Green/Hannan. For the third pair in the playoffs, I would switch Ersk in for Schultz, who has never looked quick enough to keep up with the pace of a playoff game. I would use Poti as an injury replacement and the other duties recommended by SoaringCaps. Sloan to Hershey.

Posted by: zmega | March 4, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

wow. I can't understand how any professional hockey coach or GM could ever think that a 3rd (checking) line that includes Chimera and Sturm could ever be good in the playoffs. Neither of those 2 wingers do anything worthy of that role.

As to McPhee's ridiculous comment that "wow we'll be one of the best bluelines when we get Poti back" is just crazy. He's either really stupid or he's posturing as usual. And he has no reason to posture. He has no reason to say that unless he really believes it.

Anyway, we'll let things play out. But from where I stand, this team looks like it got weaker in some ways AFTER the deadline. I liked it a little bit more earlier in the season for a brief period of time. Not that I liked them a lot, but I liked their chances to at least be a decent 1st or 2nd round playoff contender. That was when they had Gordo out, Beagle in with Hendricks and Majo on the 3rd line, etc.

If they really are crazy enough to go into the playoffs with Chimera-Majo-Sturm as their checking line, with Gordo in the lineup, with Beagle out, and with Poti in, they'll get a rude awakening.

Hope I'm wrong and it makes me sad to say it, but I'm not wrong. You cannot win playoff series after playoff series with the aforementioned players in the lineup playing their given roles. I challenge any fan on here to go and peruse not only Cup Champ rosters, but also rosters who have made it 3 series deep and find any roster that contains players like Chimera, Sturm, and Gordo on their bottom 6. You won't find one. So even if you didn't know anything about hockey, at least understand the only way the Caps make a serious dent with this lineup is by completely reinventing the wheel this playoff season and doing it with players who are simply not utilized by successful playoff teams.

I hope this didn't come off as a rant. I didnt' intend it to.

I also hope that we get to face Boston or Philly in the 1st round and not Tampa. I want this team's 1st round appearance to be against a truly challenging opponent because it will rip the mask off the Caps. They'll be forced to adjust their lineup (as usual) because they've dressed the wrong guys for that type of series. And it will be a real trial under fire and you'll see who on this team is really worth their mettle. By my count, there's only about 8-11 guys who are if Beags is a scratch.

The dependables are
Ovechkin
Backstrom
Hendricks
Brads
MaJo
Erskine
Carlson
Green (if he's healthy)

The "maybes" are

Laich
Wideman

The "questionables" are

Alzner
Arnott


I don't count on Semin, Gordo, Sarge, Sturm, Chimera, Poti etc. As far as I'm concerned those guys are all passengers. It doesn't mean that a Semin won't score some points. But on a shift by shift basis, these are the guys who won't commit to winning at all costs.

And when only Two-Thirds or less of your team is dependable, it leads to early playoff exits.

Again, not a rant, just my unsolicited obs :) Carry on

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 4, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I guess I left Knuble out because he's becoming less and less easy to read. I didn't know where to slot him.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 4, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Vermont,

Could you give us a breakdown on how you saw the Blues 2nd goal?

Play the puck, play the body, foul the f-ing guy, something.

He looked bad out there.

Posted by: Steve_R | March 4, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I would not pair Wideman with Green as they are both right handed D and they are two of the best 3 Caps puck movers. IMO, you want to seperate Wideman, Carlson and Green to have one on each pairing.

I paired Wideman with Hannan because they are a good veteran group who both seem to be dependable and do not get rattled when facing pressure. I paired Green with Schulz because they have a great familiarity with each other and you cannot discount the value of that.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 4, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

CST - no Knuble? Which category would you put him in?

I assume your classification of Arnott is based on age and not his willingness to compete.

Maybe BB is trying the "Wheels" line as a way to get more offense from the third line, like back in the Flash days. I agree that if the third line's role is to be primarily checking, Hendricks and Beagle would be more aggressive checkers.

Posted by: zmega | March 4, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

You always want to play with speed and you make it harder for the opponent to defend against you," Johansson said
------------------------------

If that was the case, Jeff Toms would have had an NHL career and Todd Krygier would've been something besides a waste of a roster spot.

this only makes sense when you have 3 forwards who can control the puck and cycle it if necessary. 3 forwards with speed who just fly around accomplish very little.

When MaJo is your best checker on your 3rd line, you got problems. And I say this as a reluctant but converted MaJo fan.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 4, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised BB broke up Hannan and Wideman last night. They looked very good together against the islanders. Come playoff time I think the pairings are

Carlson/Alzner
Hannan/Wideman
Shultz/Green

Of course this is all matchup dependent, so if we end up playing a slower, more physical team like pittsburg, we could alter the lines a bit to drop out shultz and put in erskine. If we're in need of offense (losing games 1-0, 2-1 a la montreal and poti is healthy, we drop shultz and put in poti). The other advantage if BB chooses to play the matchups is we can throw our first line out there with green and shultz against their 3rd/4th lines.

Posted by: chatton | March 4, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Gilles got 10 games btw

Posted by: icehammer97 | March 4, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Is there honestly a list where Erskine is considered dependable and Alzner is considered questionable?

Unless that "dependable" for Erskine means dependable for making poor pinches creating many odd man rushes for opposing teams, then that list has absolutely no validity to it as it clearly shows it was created with great bias and zero objectivity.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 4, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I still say the third line should be Beagle/MaJo/Hendricks and if they do not want to put Beagle in for some odd reason Hendricks/MaJo/Knuble. If I had my choice Chimera would be keeping Esskay company in the press box. To me those are the only valid "checking lines" currently available since they view Laich as a 2nd line forward.

Posted by: PhilR | March 4, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Great post cstanton. I don't agree with all of your points but I thoroughly enjoyed reading your take.

Regarding Wildeman he did push Tavares right out of the crease (though perhaps a little too hard into the post), he can take up big minutes giving Carlson a breather or two, and with him manning the point on the PP Ovi is free to do damage closer in. The single PP in the Blues game gave me hope that it will improve despite not scoring--they shot the puck often and kept possession for about a minute and half. They didn't just pass the puck.

And Arnott--I am excited by everything I see and hear from him thus far. Ornery and demands accountability and discipline, plus he is communicating with Semin. The second line finally looks threatening.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | March 4, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Correction--Wideman.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | March 4, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea of having a Sturm/MJ/Knuble 3rd or 4th line. It won't be a checking line in the sense of facing the other teams top line, just a line that faces the opposing teams 3rd D pairing.

Also, if you want to leave Knuble on the top line then it would be Sturm/MJ/Fehr. That line could do some damage against opposing teams top line. It would be more of a 4th line in terms of who they would go out against. Maybe you even bring up Bradley and put Knuble to the Hendrciks/BGordon line for D purposes and have Fehr on the 1st line.

I think having Hendrick/BGordon/Bradley and maybe Beagle thrown in there, would be a good checking line. I would feel comfortable with them going against other teams top lines.

@PhilR

I agree that Chimera should join Sloan in the pressbox for the scratches.

IMO, I would have Beagle out there with Sturm and MJ instead of Chimera. I like Beagle and what he brings to the table. Beagle brings a lot more than Chimera.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 4, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but any line with Chimera is not exciting. And the 3rd line is supposed to be the checking line. Good luck.

I think BB moved Hannan for a reason. Right now we have 2 RH D and 4 LH D. Tuesday, Hannan played left D and Wideman right D. Thought they were OK, after a shaky start. I beliebe BB though decided if one of the LH D had to play the right side, Hannan was best choice due to experience. Otherwise you were forcing either Green or Ersk to be a right-side D, and neither I think has the experience.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | March 4, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

You are getting caught into the belief that just because a line is listed 3rd on the score sheet that it is a team's checking line. A team's checking line is one that goes out for defensive draws and against the opposing team's top line. The Chimera(or whoever)/MJ/Sturm line is not put out there against the opposing team's top line. It just isn't. Therefore, calling it a checking line just because it is listed 3rd on the score sheet would be incorrect. You must look at who they are played against to get a feel to what the true role of a line is.

The Hendricks/BGordon/Bradley line is the team's checking line. It was that line that takes more defensive zone draws and faces the opposing team's top line, and is thus the checking line, even though it is listed 4th on the score sheet.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 4, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

CST - no Knuble? Which category would you put him in?

I assume your classification of Arnott is based on age and not his willingness to compete.

-----------------

Yeah I left Hannan and Knuble out of that. I don't know about those 2. I think Hannan is a good but not great competitor. Ditto with Knuble. I think Knuble in his younger days had fresher legs and was more willing to play hard along the boards and be a better puck cycler. I only see that from him in spurts. Must be an age thing. But he's still a presence in the crease so I'd put him in the "maybe" category. And I guess same with Hannan. He's not a shutdown dman and he doesn't have the ability the way Carlson, Green, or Erskine does to engage a forward and knock him off the puck. But he's a good competitor. No complaints about him but I don't think he's quite enough of a strong veteran presence.

Jason Arnott I'll say it again. He's not a natural leader. He was the beneficiary of playing with a lot of great leaders in NJ. And in Dallas the natural leaders were Brenden Morrow (despite his age at the time), Billy Guerin, Derian Hatcher, Matvichuk, Ludwig, and Langenbrunner. Not to mention other guys like Kirk Muller and Nieuwendyk.

Arnott has never had to step up and be the leader on those teams because he was always protected in those lineups.

I think the lack of leadership on the Caps continues to be a big issue.

It'll be fun to watch it all play out for sure. There will be a lot of line juggling in the playoffs because Bruce doesn't understand who his best players are and how they should be matched up.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 4, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

These three guys might have 6 of the worst hands ever. It's the Stonehands Line.

Posted by: kingrob76 | March 4, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

sgm: Most teams have a checking line and an energy line. The energy line also includes the tough guy(s). The checking line must also have toughness if not fighters. We are still lacking this balance. That's why I wanted someone like Clutterbuck. Maybe though Beagle can make his in there, if not this year then next. Maybe AGordon too, eventually, but I'm wondering about that.

BTW, I thought BGordo played very well PK last night. I think I support him (like you do Poti) more than others here.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | March 4, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

My only qualification for a checking line is one that can play very good defense against an opposing team's top line. I don't care how they get it done, but if you have a line that can really slow downa n opposing team's top line then you are in a good position. That is my only qualification of a checking line.

I think the "energy line" can be a wide variety of things. The reason the energy line is just big tough guys hitting is that many teams run out of skilled players by that point. This isn't to say that the "energy line" shouldn't be tough guys, because that is great to have.

But a 4th line that can pot a few goals,, get some scoring opportunities and draw a few penalties WITHOUT being a defensive liability is a very good 4th line IMO. The key is doing so without being a defensive liability. Once you remove Chimera, that energy line is not a defensive liability (MJ is very responsible defensively).

If the Caps really need an energy boost, they throw out the Hendricks/BGordon/Bradley (or Beagle in there somewhere) line to do that. Then that is usually followed by Ovie coming out and hitting people. Then the Hendricks line goes back into its checking line role.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 4, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Earth to Bruce: STOP TINKERING!!!!!!!

Posted by: tshanebarrett | March 4, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Chimera has size and great speed and always seems to be in the right place but he is the WORST finisher on the team.

He should have 21 or 22 goals but sits at 8 because he just can't seem to convert within 5-10 feet of the net.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | March 4, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Great line if this were the Stone Age. LOL!

Posted by: dull | March 4, 2011 11:49 PM | Report abuse

I do not come on these blogs and just call names. So I will resist using words like "idiot" and "brainless"...

I am so sick and tired of people bashing Mike Green. Go God! He is is one of the top-5 D-men in the entire league. There is not a team in the entire league that would not take him in a heartbeat - and then put him on their number-1 pairing.

All he does is go out there and play wonderfully game after game. He is the key to the Caps breakout of their own zone. When he has missed games, the Caps aren't half the offensive team they are with him in there.

He is not having a great offensive season this year - by his standards. Who is on the Caps? But he has improved his defensive play greatly.

He is faster than most forwards in the league. On those occasions when his is out of position (everyone is sometimes), he is better able to regroup than just about anyone. His puck-handling abilities are also better than most forwards. Watching him deke around guys trying to forecheck is often amusing - he makes it look so simple.

Every time one of you bashes him, I just thank heaven you aren't running the Caps! Clearly you are... oops! I said I wouldn't use those words.

Posted by: noslok | March 5, 2011 1:26 AM | Report abuse

Ok men have a seat and listen up only goin to say this once, shultzs please wait outside this room for men only ,

Our d pairings will be as follows

1. wideman / Hannon
2. Carl / alzer
3. green / shultzs

Posted by: Dogbreeder | March 5, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

The problem with the Caps defence is they have 5 guys who are good and should get a lot of playing time, but no consistent 6th. It would probably almost be easier if they just had 4 good defencemen who could eat up most of the minutes in the playoffs. Erskine was playing alright for a while this season but the last couple of games he's been making bad plays and poor decisions. Schultz has really not been very good this year either. Last game it seemed like when either was on the ice there would be a good scoring chance against. Carlson/Alzner shouldn't split Hannan with either Wideman or Green works well. Don't know what to do for the last pair. I wouldn't put Shultz and Green back together for the playoffs, don't really like the idea of Shultz and Wideman. Erskine has had a rough past few games so I don't know if he would fit in there very well either. He was playing okay with Hannan for a while but that messes up the other pairings. If the team had two Hannans to put with Green and Wideman the defensive lineup would be really impressive.

Posted by: Stu_c | March 5, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

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