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Capitals 5, Blue Jackets 3

The Capitals continued to stick up for each other this preseason, with several players defending their teammates in a 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. You can read more about the all-for-one attitude in the story for Saturday's hard-copy edition.

One of the most noticeable statistics in this latest exhibition victory, though, was a negative one: rookie center Marcus Johansson won none of the 10 faceoffs he took against the Blue Jackets.

For the most part in training camp and the preseason Johansson has stood out for good reasons. He's transitioned smoothly to playing with NHL regulars, is adjusting well to the smaller ice surface, he possesses natural defensive instincts and has a fluid skating style. Friday, he thwarted several Columbus scoring chances by picking off passes or intercepting shots in the defensive zone. With the Capitals on the penalty kill with about eight minutes left in the third, Johansson scooped up the puck, skated end to end and wound up drawing a penalty to negate the Blue Jackets' power play.

But despite all of the positives, he has consistently struggled with faceoffs winning just 15 of the 47 draws (31.6 percent) he's taken through five exhibition games.

"I had a tough day today with faceoffs," Johansson said following Friday's contest. "It didn't bounce my way at all. I tried everything. It's a different league and they're all really good at faceoffs so it's a little different than back home. I just tried to figure it out and solve situations differently, no matter who I'm taking a faceoff against. I had a really tough day but I just have to keep trying."

When he first entered the NHL, Nicklas Backstrom, who won 67 percent of his draws (12 of 18) against Columbus, also had to work on his faceoff skills. During his rookie season, Backstrom won 46.3 percent of his draws but by the end of 2009-10 he was winning nearly half (49.9 percent) of the faceoffs he took.

Considering how Johansson has adapted to everything else the Capitals have thrown at him thus far, Coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't doubt that the 20-year-old can overcome the faceoff hurdle.

"I watched the last one [Johansson took against Columbus] pretty intently because he has no confidence at that right now," Boudreau said. "He's asking Brooks [Laich] and other guys to take them. If I recall, Nicky struggled when he first came over. I don't know what other Swedes are like; I wonder if it's a common theme that they don't work on it or if the referees drop the puck differently there or their thought process is different over there for what they have to do on faceoffs -- but he's picked up everything else. He's going to pick this up."

Other notes and quotes:
-- Eric Fehr, who is hoping to build on his career-best season from 2009-10, called the two goals he tallied tonight "garbage goals" but as Boudreau pointed out, "You get 50 of them and a lot of people are going to pay you a lot of money. Garbage or whatever."

-- Matt Hendricks was held out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons, but Boudreau said if it had been a regular season game he would have likely returned.

-- "They were a little rusty out there," Boudreau said about the top line of Alex Ovechkin-Backstrom-Mike Knuble. Boudreau added the linemates will get another game under their belts on Sunday in the preseason finale against Nashville at 12:30 p.m.

-- In other news, TSN is reporting that former Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.

By Katie Carrera  | October 1, 2010; 11:49 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus Johansson  
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Next: Caps unveil Winter Classic throwback uniform

Comments

I wouldn't be too harsh. Faceoffs are a joke in Elitserien, he will learn quickly here.

Posted by: trunkenmath | October 2, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

@tmac. I think that there is a lot of things that fans don't know about the team and the reasons why certain things are or aren't that the fans just don't know. No team can go out and get exactally want they in this Cap age. If we had gone out and gotten a D it would have almost certainly been for more then just this year as almost on Dmen signed for just this year so that signing could have hurt us next season in resigning. Just because the Hawks won on an all or nothing run does not make it the smart thing to do.

As for your talk about Ovechkin's two way game here are some things to consider. Ovechkin was 18th in hits for forwards last year. No player who had more hits then him had more then half his goals. He was also 10th in the league in takeaways among forwards. Those nubers show that some of the things you think of when you talk about two-way forwards. He is higher in both catigories then celebrated two-way guy Jordan Staal.

I think since he does so much on the offensive end his defensive abilities are sometimes overlooked. Yes, he is not Datsyuk but I think he is much better then many give him credit for.

That was from the last thread just wanted to repost it.

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


Also good to see Theo get a job. He was always a class act here even when he had such a short playoff leash.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 2, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

I think before people overreact to one play by a veteran or two in the preseason, such as the "lazy" play by Ovie, they should read what Matthew Barnaby said about the preseason after a game when the team playing a bunch of minor leaguers and fringe NHL players beat the team playing mostly NHL veterans guaranteed to make the roster.

He said simply, young guys and fringe players are trying their hardest in preseason games to make the team. NHL veterans don't care.

So lets not go overboard and criticize Ovie or another veteran for not going full speed on a play in a preseason game.

Many people in here have already stated that the regular season is meaningless. If that's true, then where would the preseason stand?

Posted by: sgm3 | October 2, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

All that statistical stuff is understood, icehammer.

Again, as with the plus/minus argument, if you just watch him play every game like I'm sure you do, it's obvious that he has a ton of improvement that he can make in terms of decision-making and a sense of responsibility in every zone.

Furthermore, I reckon that the vast majority of his hits and takeaways come in the offensive zone. It's almost sickening at times to watch him just drifting around in the defensive zone staring at the puck with no thought as to where his man is or if he's pinching.

You'll also see at least a couple instances per game of his mark rushing up the ice with him trailing and doing nothing or giving a half-hearted effort to recover.

Throw any stats you want out there and my argument will be the same. It's obvious that he has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to his decision-making and sense of responsibility in areas not related to scoring. It's also clear that his coach does little to encourage him to try to improve in those areas since there has been next to zero change in this part of his game over the last few years.

If he has some stats that on the surface say that he's a good defensive player, then those stats could get even better if he cleaned up some of the holes in his games.

The question is whether Boudreau has the confidence to make Ovechkin do more of the "not fun" stuff involved in being a complete player. I don't know that Boudreau isn't too scared to do that. The other possibility is that Boudreau just doesn't emphasize defense enough, in general, and it just reflects more in Ovechkin's game than other forwards since Ovechkin knows that his job and playing time are a guarantee.

All I'm saying is that there might be another coach out there who wouldn't be afraid to chew into Ovechkin a little more when he's not making good decisions and letting up defensively. I believe that Ovechkin has a lot more potential as a two-way player (even from a statistical perspective which I really am not concerned with in terms of this particular argument) but I think he needs to be held more accountable in those areas.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 2, 2010 2:11 AM | Report abuse

As far as the face-off issue with Johansson, I remember skimming over several articles early in the summer about how winning face-offs was a tremendously overrated part of the game, statistically speaking.

I don't know how valid those arguments were but if they happen to be true, it's good for Johansson.

It would also be bad for Steckel because as far as I'm concerned, that is the only NHL-caliber skill he brings to the table.

There was a bunch of data I found through Japers links, from his ineffectivenss on the PK to other areas, that make a strong case that Steckel is simply taking ice time from cheaper, better alternatives in Hershey, even if he isn't making a lot of money.

I've never been a fan of Steckel's game. He's a good character guy and he is obviously elite at face-offs (regardless of the value in that skill) but he just doesn't do anything else well.

He's really slow, he can't change directions effectively, can't apply pressure effectively on the PK because of the previous traits, can't clear the puck effectively because of his stone hands, gets pushed off the puck with amazing ease given his size, doesn't play physically enough for his role (even if he was 2nd on the team in hits... there is more to physical play that tallying hits), etc...

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 2, 2010 2:19 AM | Report abuse

@sgm

This conversation dates back to the previous thread. My point had nothing to do with this pre-season game. It's a general obvservation that as good as Ovechkin is, he has a lot of room for improvement and I'm not certain that he'll reach his full potential as a complete player with a coach that lets him get away with certain things.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 2, 2010 2:28 AM | Report abuse

@tmac. Every player has something they can get bettter on. However I think that his defensive abilities are ignored such as when you talk about Ovechkin's hits and steals being in the offensive zone. Last time I checked defense is played on the entire ice. So any takeaway or hit in the offensive zone might not seem like a great defensive play but if he doesn't make that play the other player could come in and score but since it happens in the offensive zone everyone sees it as an offensive play instead of the defensive play that it is.

I am not picking on you there are many people who do the same thing. They see any defensive play he makes in the offensive zone as an offensive play. He also makes several plays on the PP when guys are breaking in where he comes back to stop a short handed goal from going in.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 2, 2010 3:21 AM | Report abuse

Why does the Center always have to be the faceoff guy. Pair him up with Gordon, Steckle, or Laich and be done with it.

Posted by: RedskinsXXVI | October 2, 2010 4:31 AM | Report abuse

I am really happy for Jose! It was a tough year to be a goalie! Best of luck (except when you play the Caps)!

Posted by: capscoach | October 2, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I am really happy for Jose! It was a tough year to be a goalie! Best of luck (except when you play the Caps)!

Posted by: capscoach | October 2, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I am really happy for Jose! It was a tough year to be a goalie! Best of luck (except when you play the Caps)!

Posted by: capscoach | October 2, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

No, the center does not have to take the face-off, but by not taking a face-off, you limit the set plays off a face-off. So Laich takes the draw on a conjectured 2nd or 3rd line -- who goes to the crease to create traffic or look for the redirect/deflection? Who is on the half-wall for the quick one-timer? Who is ready to play as the defensive/offensive pivot? Along with taking the face-off, the center has offenisve and defensive responsibilities that go with the position. That's one of the reasons centers get bent out of shape when they pushed out of the circle by the refs -- it screws up the responsiblities of the players.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 2, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Tmac - I suppose you think OV can score 50+ goals, win 60%+ of the faceoffs he takes, break up 2 on 1's, backup the goalie to make saves, call the line changes and ref the game at the same time? I can't believe some of the crap you just said dude. Sorry bro but there isn't a more dominant well rounded player than OV at this point. Only a few in the league can score like he does. None of which have the physical presence he does. Do you realize how much pressure he puts on the opposing team when we're in our defensive zone? The other team knows darn well we're looking for the long outlet pass to him so their D has to be very aware of where he is and can't take chances pinching in when he's on the ice or they'll get burned. Sorry bro but you can't have your cake and eat it too. The closest player that came to 50 goals and was incredibly responsible in his own end was Peca and that was 1 year. Give me the 50+ goals per yr and let the others do their job and we'll be fine.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 2, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Jose is a class act. I've met him many times & had a nice conversation with him when the Caps came to Colorado last year. He may not be the elite tender he was at 1 time but he is still an elite person.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 2, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

DRINK WISELY MY FRIENDS

Posted by: terryreece | October 2, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Goood for Jose!

Posted by: Riddler1 | October 2, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Goood for Jose!

Posted by: Riddler1 | October 2, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Faceoffs are quite simply, hugely overrated. But the media - many of whom may not know a ton about hockey to begin with - make a big deal out of them, and understandably so. It is an easy stat to quantify, even if, 75-80% of the time, it means very little [obvious exceptions, minute left to play, up/down a goal and faceoff in your own end, etc. But these are very, very limited exceptions].

When Peter Forsberg was in CO, he often had a winger take the draw, especially later in his career as he battled his various injuries to his wrist, shoulder and back. If there's ever been a better center than Peter Forsberg in his prime, I have certainly not seen him.

Posted by: govtimbo | October 2, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

@tmac - As for Steckel, I simply couldn't agree more, I would only add, for an NHL center, his passing and hands are borderline atrocious. He's obviously neither a scorer nor a playmaker, and yet for a grinder, he does not win very many loose pucks. I don't get it. Pierre Maguire and Melrose talk about what an effective PK'er he is, but not from what I've seen. Also, those two are idiots.

I like and admire so much of what BB's about, but at some point, the loyalty has to have limits.

Posted by: govtimbo | October 2, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

@tmac, esponding to a comment in the game thread, the shortie wasn't Ovi's fault as he had his stick snapped in two on that play. The goal shouldn't have counted because Columbus should have been given a penalty.

That said, I agree that there is always things a player can work on, and certainly with Ovi, it would be defense. I don't think he's as bad as maybe you think he is, but I also agree that there's a lot he could improve on.

Posted by: dfe1 | October 2, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad Hendricks will be OK, it was a pretty vicious elbow. Thank GOD it wasn't Semin, Flash, Johansson, or any one of our other european players because cstanton1 would be on rant about the eurotrash wimps that don't fight and can't take an NHL hit.

I had a great time at the game last night, and it was nice to get back to Verizon. I've watched a couple of the videostreamed games but the intensity, as always, is much different at the stadium. The Capitals are playing a little ticked off right now IMO. Not tough enough for some obviously but an obvious difference in their attitude. Did anyone else that went to the game sense that? I'm asking people that went, because like I said, the intensity feels much greater in person than watching it on the internet. Guess that's why I enjoy NHL hockey in person more than any other sport.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 2, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Several years ago I took my sons to a regular season Caps game and then, a few weeks later, a Wizards game. The Wizards game turned out to be the final time that Michael Jordan scored 50 points in his career. The fans were louder and more into the game at the hockey game. Just the nature of the beasts, I guess - hockey is consistently intense by its nature.

Posted by: zmega | October 2, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

From The Hockey News:

"Once Souray clears, however, the Oilers could demote him to their minor league affiliate and then place him on re-entry waivers. This means a team claiming him would only have to pick up half of his remaining contract, which expires at the end of 2011-12, with the Oilers on the hook for the other half.

"Earlier this month it was rumored the Columbus Blue Jackets were interested in acquiring Souray, but the Columbus Dispatch reports there’s been no talk between the Oilers and Blue Jackets since the week before the start of training camp. While nothing appears imminent the fact they have talked suggests nothing is off the table.

"Clubs that might have interest in claiming Souray off re-entry waivers include the Rangers and Islanders.

"While it remains possible for the Oilers to trade Souray, it’s evident by placing him on waivers they haven’t found any interested trade partners. Re-entry waivers appear, at this point, the best means to move him."

Link to full article:
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/35375-Rumor-Roundup-Will-Souray-be-plucked-off-waivers.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=thn_daily_20101002

GMGM appears to have a good relationship with the GM in Columbus. Do I hear a phone ringing?

Posted by: Wiley_One1 | October 2, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

i am wondering if a player on re-entry that is claimed by columbus in this example can be turned around and traded to some other team. not sure if the rules apply. Souray is not the punishing D we need but he is the type of D that GMGM likes puck moving skating D

Posted by: samb99 | October 2, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see the Caps winter classic unis are the original Caps unis. I like the keeping with the red theme with the pants and lids.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 2, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

zmega: Yeah, I have always found hockey fans to be very loud. I have to tell you though, if you haven't been there since Ovi's arrival you will be amazed if you do. Yesterday's preseason crowd, was more loud, and into the game than most crowds during the regular season pre-lockout. If you are a fan of team that has suffered through the thin years both in wins and attendance the noise level produced for your Capitals sends shivers down your spine.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 2, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"Yesterday's preseason crowd, was more loud, and into the game than most crowds during the regular season pre-lockout."

Might have something to do with the acoustic properties of red stairs.

Posted by: Wiley_One1 | October 2, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

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