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Posted at 1:16 PM ET, 02/22/2011

Matt Bradley helps get Capitals on track against Penguins

By Katie Carrera

Matt Bradley knew the Capitals came out flat in the first period against the Penguins Monday night, so when the second period started he wanted to make sure he started setting a physical tone.

When he saw Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke -- who hit Alex Ovechkin knee-on-knee late in the teams' previous meeting on Feb. 6 -- skate out from behind the goal line with the puck, Bradley didn't need an invitation for the chance to make a statement.

"Obviously when I saw the opportunity to go in there and hit him, I saw who it was and that made my decision easy --- let's put it that way," Bradley said. "You can't go hit our best player with a dirty hit without us retaliating. I don't think Cookie wanted to fight, so with that aspect, the best thing to do is hit him solid. I tried to hit him clean. I wasn't trying to hit him with a dirty hit, just with a solid body check."

Bradley did just that, and the check started a brief fracas after the whistle. The veteran forward earned a minor penalty for charging and Jordan Staal was given two minutes for roughing after confronting Bradley. After he served his penalty, Bradley was challenged to a fight by Ryan Craig, one of the many call-ups in the lineup for the Penguins.

Bradley won the fight, but that was more of a byproduct of how he energized his teammates than what he did to accomplish that goal. By simply dishing out a few solid checks and seeking to initiate more contact, he seemed to get the Capitals to follow suit.

"Our whole team was flat in the first," Bradley said. "So a guy like me, who can go out and hit a couple guys and get the guys going, that's what I need to do. We didn't do that -- none of us did it in the first period -- so we needed to come out in the second and turn it around. That's what I tried to do."

Bradley earned the hard hat following the game, having served as a significant catalyst to the 1-0 victory.

"Not just his fight, but he was hitting," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought he had a tremendous game. He did things that energy guys on the fourth line are supposed to do. You don't really think they're going to score a lot of goals, but he did great things out there."

By Katie Carrera  | February 22, 2011; 1:16 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Bradley, Pittsburgh Penguins  
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Next: Report: Capitals and Rangers closer to playing in Russia in 2011-12 opener

Comments

I can't believe they gave Brads a penalty for a clean hit. Besides, its Open Season week on Matt Cooke. Everyone gets to pummel him without penalty.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | February 22, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

repost from last thread.

@hockeypunk He would give us leadership and grit on the back end and would allow us to possibly trade 55 if there was interest.

As for trading Semin for a center being a lateral move I think centers are much more important in this league then a wing so trading a good wing for a good center is an upgrade. Guys like Alexei Kovalev can be gotten for very cheap and can replace a scoring wing who isn't physical.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

trade semin for a center and pickup zherdev on waivers

Posted by: samb99 | February 22, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

trade semin for a center and pickup zherdev on waivers

Posted by: samb99 | February 22, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Zherdev is on waivers?

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

will be soon

Posted by: samb99 | February 22, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for new blood, but what's with the Kool Aid newbies on here the last few weeks criticizing everyone else? State YOUR opinion and let everyone else have theirs. If you blindly support BB and GMGM that's okay, but some folks don't agree, it's the way the world goes round.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | February 22, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow - finishing checks hard actually have an impact on the game! Schultz- are you paying attention? Brads had a great game. Why is Sloan playing for us? Anyone?

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 22, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

@samb99. Even if he does go on waivers no sure thing he is still available when he gets to us.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

After the deadline and all the hoopla dies down GMGM will tell us that no trade for Semin was talked about. Whether that's the case or not, we won't know for sure. He's staying put as a Capital.

Posted by: Cayugalaker | February 22, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Brads was great last night, but how Neuvy doesn't get the hard hat is beyond me.

Posted by: PonMan | February 22, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Caps deffo need more Bradleys. I can't believe how soft the league is when that's a penalty.

The GMs need to fix the headshot policy, since it seems refs are erring on the side of caution and just calling something, rather than be seen by Campbell as missing calls.

Posted by: GFisher1 | February 22, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

repost from previous thread

It should be pointed out that a "GOOD" 2c would also provide better defense---not just feed Semin who seems to freelance more then looking to play with his line mates.

Posted by: sidehillman | February 22, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: sidehillman | February 22, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

GFisher1

I think that it is more a matter of the refs being totally incompetent rather then the league being soft----reference the hit on Hendricks the night before & only a 2 min penalty.

In addition, how about when a player skates from the blue line a full speed to hit someone a full speed on the boards.

I think it used to be that more then 2-3 strides was charging.

Posted by: sidehillman | February 22, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Good centers are more important than good wings, but elite wings trump good centers.

Look at the Blackhawks. They gave Hossa a retirement deal and settled for a hybrid center/wing in Sharp. Without Hossa, the Blackhawks wouldn't have won the Cup. He was big piece of their team.

Posted by: ablake70 | February 22, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

If Semin played like Hossa this wouldn't be a discussion. What kills people is that Semin can play like Hossa when he wants/isn't injured.

Posted by: GFisher1 | February 22, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

How can the announcers last night for Versus be so enamored with Green? Yeah, our power play really misses him. He's a big reason why it has sucked such a major dong here so far this season. Now that he's out, we're actually seeing improvement in it. That's not a coincidence.

Posted by: cao091402 | February 22, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

@ablake, at the same time if they didn't have Sharp they wouldn't have won the Cup either. I wouldn't call having him settling given he gets 20some goal a season out of the #2 center position.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Man, a Chris Neil would fit in nicely in Chimera's roster spot. Chimi plus a 3rd for Neil anybody?

Posted by: jimc93 | February 22, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Great game by Bradley last night. He should've been one of the "stars" last night, much the way Johnny E. should've been a "star" back on Jan. 1st

And speaking of "stars," I'd just like to point out that Ovi and Backstrom have as many star-games in the games DJK plays (14) as they do in all the games he hasn't played (47). Coincidence, or does his presence in the lineup actually contribute to them raising their level of play? (I don't have the goals/ppg stats for same games, but the results are just as glaring)

Posted by: vermontcaps | February 22, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure Semin is still hurt - probably a groin injury. He doesn't appear to be skating normally. He can stop and turn but he can't really stretch it out to go with speed - he doesn't even try.

Posted by: zmega | February 22, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The other issue with the Hawks is they only have 11 players under contract after this season but only have just under $16M in cap space for the other 9-12 players. They will probably once again lose their goalie because he is playing so well and will cost more then they can afford so they will have to go in the bargin bin again and hope for the best.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

@ vermontcaps

.............good point!

Posted by: Cayugalaker | February 22, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Given the scarcity of available 2Cs in the NHL, I think GMGM should have Boudreau try Laich as our 3C and let Johansson stay at 2C. If the third line can thrive with Laich, it would be much easier to replace Laich on the 2nd line with a talented winger than it would be to get a 2C. Not to mention Laich has been pretty inconsistent this year and might be better served playing on the third line. This could give us four solid lines that match up well against their competition instead of the constant mismatches we have now with our 2nd and 3rd lines.

Posted by: Cherno | February 22, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Given the scarcity of available 2Cs in the NHL, I think GMGM should have Boudreau try Laich as our 3C and let Johansson stay at 2C. If the third line can thrive with Laich, it would be much easier to replace Laich on the 2nd line with a talented winger than it would be to get a 2C. Not to mention Laich has been pretty inconsistent this year and might be better served playing on the third line. This could give us four solid lines that match up well against their competition instead of the constant mismatches we have now with our 2nd and 3rd lines.

Posted by: Cherno | February 22, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

@icehammer

yeah they might lose players again, but they have the Cup that every Caps fan would love.

Posted by: ThePat | February 22, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

@icehammer97

I would have been easier to replace Sharp than Hossa.

Sharp scored 20 goals on the 2nd line last year, but Flash had 23 playing on lines 2/3 in 69 games. Which one of those guys would you rather have as 2C?

Points can be deceiving. A guy like Alex Burrows had 35 goals playing next to H. Sedin, but I wouldn't expect him to have those kind of numbers playing on a line with Toews. He's the kind of player who depends on others to look good. Guys like Hossa, Semin, H. Sedin, Ovechkin, etc make guys look better than they are and inflate their point totals. They are valuable to their teams even when they aren't score.

Posted by: ablake70 | February 22, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

could someone please mention how dumb staal is?

negating a pittsburgh power play and acting as if, say, bradley had skated from the redline and drilled cooke in the numbers.

borderline call on bradley. pitt should have just been happy with the PP.

oh well. yay brads!

Posted by: CF11555 | February 22, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Cayugalake,
Don't encourage Vermontcaps' crazy DJ King/Erskine theories. :)

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 22, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

@ j3rockstar

vermontcaps does have a point. They do play more aggressive when DJK plays. Maybe it isn't a direct result, but it does seem like they play with a little more swagger

Posted by: _stevo | February 22, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I was just giving him a hard time, it makes sense but I would die a little inside if vermontcaps was right and DJ King has been the solution to all the problems the team has had this year.

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 22, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I really don't understand why GMGM waited until this moment to get a 2C unless last year was "the year" and this is a rebuild.

It's been six years since he started the Ovechkin rebuild. The Caps should have had a 2C and an established top 4 by now.

Posted by: ablake70 | February 22, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

@j3rockstar
@_stevo

Is it possible that everyone plays a little better when DJK is on the roster because everyone gets more shifts, since he only see's the ice for 6-7 minutes a game opposed to when they roll 4 complete lines?

Posted by: Walle | February 22, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, I think the zebra bias against the Caps seems to be less severe than in the last couple of seasons.

But it's still there, make no mistake.

That said, After watching the play I'm not even sure the zebras got the call right, viz.:

42.1 Charging - A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner.

Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.

A minor, major or a major and a game misconduct shall be imposed on a player who charges a goalkeeper while the goalkeeper is within his goal crease.

A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the Referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

42.2 Minor Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a minor penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check, to a player guilty of charging an opponent.


This could be interpreted in a variety of ways--on one hand, I guess we could be consider ourselves fortunate that Brads didn't get a Major out of this collision.

IMHO it shouldn't have been a penalty--it was a clean hit. Even if it should have been a penalty, I would think a minor for Boarding (n blood/injury) would be more applicable.

Still more satisfying, though, was the beat-down Brads gave out later.

Posted by: Rhino40 | February 22, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Walle -
Excellent point! Well done.

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 22, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

@walle

great point, and I've said before that DJK in the lineup gives BB the flexibility to give more icetime to top players....yet another reason to get DJK in the lineup more frequently

Posted by: vermontcaps | February 22, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

And getting DJK regularly in the line-up would probably inprove his game as well. I felt he had his best game this season last night. And he didn't even fight!

I did not like our third line yesterday though. Chimera-MP-B.Gordon.
I know Hendricks was out sick, but i'd like our third line going in to the playoffs to look like this, Hendricks-Laich-Beagle.

How about this (if no trades are pulled off?

Ovi-Backs-Fehr
Knuble-MaJo-Semin
Hendricks-Laich-Beagle
Bradley-Steckel-DJK

Posted by: Walle | February 22, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

@Walle. I would change Beagle for Chimmy. Beagle would be a great 13th forward who could come in if someone was out and I think that Chimmy's speed is vastly under rated as an asset by many on this board. He doesn't just negate icings (which in itself is a good value with the no change icing) but he also takes away time from other teams D not only breaking out of the zone on changes but also when teams work the puck from low to the point. Do I wish he would be more physical, sure but his speed takes away time and chances from the other team.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Someone mentioned the lack of ice time DJK gets. That's OK. Many nights OV ends up getting double shifted here and there anyway. Hendricks, Erskine and Bradley will throw down, sure. But with DJK sitting at the end of the bench (well rested) the fear of Jesus is only a fist away. Sweet dreams Cooke. What a freakin' pansy-ass!!

Posted by: Cayugalaker | February 22, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

My guess is GMGM won't make any trades as all the asking prices will be too high as he doesn't want to give away any of our prospects in Hershey. Bringing up Aucoin and Beagle would be great if Backstrom is out for 4-6 weeks with the thumb fracture.

Let's see what happens over the next 6 days up to the deadline; however, I don't think GMGM will pull the trigger on any trades, even if Backstrom can't play for 4-6 wks.

Posted by: JMinVA | February 22, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Hendricks-Laich-Beagle
---------------------

Beagle>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Chimera who should be watching from the pressbox

Posted by: joek443 | February 22, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Ans Steckel fills the quota for a big guy who can't/won't hit on this team

Posted by: joek443 | February 22, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

oops how could I forget about 55? so they already have 3 of those players on the team.

Posted by: joek443 | February 22, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I might be the only one who thinks its odd, but the Caps already cancelled practice for tomorrow. So they will go today and tomorrow without practice.

Posted by: ThePat | February 22, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Went to Hershey this past weekend and I have to say Beagle works his a$$ off all the time but he's not the answer.

Posted by: bqts | February 22, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Brads is the man!! How does he get a charging penalty on that play?? Caps need more of that style.

by the way, for all you folks that say morning skates don't matter.

Furious Jacques Lemaire cuts Devils' morning skate short

http://www.nj.com/devils/index.ssf/2011/02/furious_jacques_lemaire_cuts_d.html

Posted by: doughless | February 22, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

@ The Pat

I guess BB thinks that "Practice" is now just always an optional thing

Posted by: bqts | February 22, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

@icehammer97

His speed is really usefull, like you said. Bbut IMO he isn't positionally sound enough in our defensive-zone for a checkingline and doesn't have the hands or the grit to use his speed to something more than negateing icingpucks.

I like the idea of trading Semin+ for Stastny+, i think he's one of the smartest centers in the league. and it's easier to get a new winger for our second line.

Posted by: Walle | February 22, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The Avs will not part ways with Stastny.

Posted by: doughless | February 22, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

@bqts

Or more than Backstrom is hurt and since they got stuck in Pitt last night he gave them extra time.

Or George plans on holding press conferences all day.

Posted by: ThePat | February 22, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

@ The Pat

Ted is the only one that likes that much time with the press :).

Posted by: bqts | February 22, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Hendricks was out sick last night right? Maybe they are telling them to stay away from each other while they have a few days between game to avoid the spreading the bug like back in Dec.

Posted by: eorr | February 22, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Or more than Backstrom is hurt and since they got stuck in Pitt last night he gave them extra time.

Posted by: ThePat | February 22, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I know MP only played 55 seconds in the third so I would expect him on the list of those hurt.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

@ Walle. If wingers are so easy to come by why does Pittsburgh have such a hard time finding them?

Posted by: nimrodrsp | February 22, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

The silence is deafening. OK GMGM is tight lipped. Somebody in DC must be able to come up with something. What's the chance of 52 playing Friday? What is 19's status? Who else is hurt? How's Hendricks? What is Fehr/Poti status? No practice today. No practice tomorrow? Is that correct? You couldn't hide like this in a real hockey town. BB and GMGM are pretty lucky on that front. Since I don't live down there anymore I'm at the mercy of the internet and you guys.

Posted by: Cayugalaker | February 22, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Just heard about Backs. Horrible news even if it is the best-case scenario and it's just minor.

You wanna know what organizational depth is?

Being able to lose your 1st line C and barely miss a beat. See: Bruins, Boston

I'm pretty sure Savard is their top earning C so at a minimum, he's paid like the best.

Even if an off year, Nicklas Backstrom is CRUCIAL to the success of this team. Even when he's not scoring, he is far and away our best two-way center and he is more irreplacable than any other player on the roster, along with probably Green, but I think we are better suited to absorb the loss of Green.

We have never seen this version of the Caps play for any stretch without Nicky B.

And we don't want to see it.

Cross your fingers, Caps fans. Well, that is if you still had any hope for this season.

We can not cope with the loss of our #1 C like some other teams could. Even a 50% Backstrom would test the team severely. Let's hope he heals quick or can perform close to normal with the injury.

I know I've railed against some of the trade proposals in here and a lot of people could rightfully rail on my belief that Spezza would be a great addition.

I know his contract situation and I've heard the rumors about his issues.

Still, some people liked the idea of bringing in Ribiero who only has 1 less year on his contract and only $2 mil less in a cap hit per year.

Spezza is young enough that he could become part of the core of this team for years to come. He's a big body and is a super elite center in terms of his playmaking skills. Our #2 C problem would be addressed permanently.

I'm not sure if Ott is still looking to move him or if he has a NMC or what not but I'd be ecstatic if we could land him and I believe we could deal with his contract well enough.

Obviously, Semin going back the other way would be a key from out perspective. For the short term, i.e., next season, there wouldn't be much of a difference in the impact on our cap space, assuming any additional pieces involved in such a trade weren't overly significant in terms of financial impact.

Longer term, I say it's worth it because of the importance of building up the middle. We won't produce a Spezza-caliber player from within any time soon. Even if one of the young players in the system could eventually fill that role, it won't be anytime soon.

In my mind, Spezza makes sense for this season and more importantly, the future.

If Ott is game and they want Semin, who has performed well against them in the past, I hope McPhee pulls the trigger and doesn't look back.

Regardless, get well Nicky.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Fixed from prev. post: Even when he's not scoring, he is far and away our best two-way player... (not just center)... Mike Green is a close 2nd when he's on top of his game.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

@nimrod

Pitt has had an issue finding them bc of the salary cap and having $20M wrapped up in their 3 VERY VERY good C's.

Posted by: ThePat | February 22, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

@nimrodrsp

I didn't say easy, I said easiER.. but for every Centermen there's 2 Wingers!

And in Pittsburgh's case, i'd say they've had good wingers, but not being able to afford to keep them because of their 3 C's, MAF and earlier Gonchars now Michalek/Martins big contracts.

Posted by: Walle | February 22, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I thought 55 played a pretty good game last night. He was taking the body & had some good shifts.
The Backstrom injury worries me. If MP85 is hurt, that isn't much of a loss.
Since 30 threw a shutout, I guess 1 starts against the Rags.
I don't want GMGM to overpay for a 2C (or even worse for 3C who is called a 2C). If the caps have to go into the playoffs with this team (with Green & Fehr back), IMO we will do alright.

Posted by: chriscaps | February 22, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Ovi-Backs-Fehr
Knuble-MaJo-Semin
Hendricks-Laich-Beagle
Bradley-Steckel-DJK
------------

While I like the idea of Laich on the 3rd as I think he's better suited to a checking role, Fehr seems to struggle mightily against good d-men, which he'd see a lot of in that role. And Knuble hasn't done much when he's not out there with Ovie and Backs this year.

As for Steckel, his value drops dramatically .5 seconds after the puck drops and once play begins. BB seems to fall in love with big, slow guys with limited skill sets - who also don't hit - and I don't understand it. Most NHL teams weed out guys who aren't 1)quick* & 2) tough; not only is neither one a disqualifier for GMGM, so of our guys are both.

*By quick I don't really mean Chimera, I mean quick in tight spaces; quick in holes / winning loose pucks. I.e., John Carlson. Even Backstrom, not the fastest guy but he wins a lot of loose pucks most nights. Chimera looks great end-to-end but doesn't seem to do a whole lot with it, many shifts.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Being able to lose your 1st line C and barely miss a beat. See: Bruins, Boston

I'm pretty sure Savard is their top earning C so at a minimum, he's paid like the best.
------------

David Krecji has outplayed Savard pretty consistently when it counts - which is why Neely pushed Chia so hard to move Savard this summer; of course that terrible contract was one nobody wanted. The B's were 7-2 in the playoffs last year with Krecj in the lineup - and promptly got steamrolled by Philthy [oh-and-four straight] once Richards head-shot him. Lucic in particular is a different player with and without Krecji. Not saying Julien doesn't love him those French-Canadian boys, but Krecji's simply a much better all-around player, even before Savard got hurt again.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

If only GMGM had let Steckel walk and picked up Konopka in the off season?

Posted by: ablake70 | February 22, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Do you think Rags would trade Schultz for Del Zotto?

Posted by: Walle | February 22, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

If only GMGM had let Steckel walk
-----------

I can't think of another GM on a good team that so consistently seems to overpay bottom 6 forwards [and bottom 2 d-men I guess]. The frustrating thing is other guys are available for those slots - ie., didn't Hendricks come here on a tryout contract, IIRC? - so there's seemingly no need to overpay for those guys.

It'd be one thing if we were DET and kept Draper after multiple Cup runs - but I don't know anybody confusing Steckel with Draper.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Do you think Rags would trade Schultz for Del Zotto?

Posted by: Walle
-----------

It's a good question; unfortunately, Sather seems to value mobility in his d-men, however.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Good post, Timbo.

I'd add though that Knuble does a lot of little things well even when he's not scoring and if there was ever a player that brought intangibles to this group, it's him. I agree that he's underperformed on the top line but in other situations, he's been very good, whether on a lower line or on the PK or along the boards in general.

Totally agree about Steckel.

Totally agree about the excess of slow and soft players.

I'd also add that in addition to the lack of quickness as you described it, I think there is simply a lack of certain mental traits in the players that McPhee piles up on. Some of it just comes down to a lack of inherent compete levels and "want to" and willingness to work hard and sacrifice.

You just can't teach certain players how to work at a certain level consistently. It isn't in their makeup.

I also think part of it may be systemic in terms of the environment created by the decision-makers. For example, in addition to Shero picking up a ton of players who are tough, both mentally and physically, he and the rest of management as well as the coaching staff and on-ice leaders have created an environment where every player that comes in knows the minimum that is expected of them every night. Not only do they foster that sense of urgency in the players, I think they know how to truly make the players motivated and excited to play hard. So it goes beyond the fear factor.

On the other hand, I think their is a complacency and almost a subconsciously accepted level of softness and low work rate within our organization. I think it's pretty obvious when you just use your eyes and see the way some of the guys compete on a nightly basis compared to players on opposing teams.

It's like working for a stale company where nobody is motivated and just goes through the motions versus another company where management fosters the right psychological and motivational enironment for its employees. The same employee may be a slug while working for Company A but be reinvigorated and more productive after leaving and working for Company B. The point being that it isn't just about the individual. It's about the environment around the individual. Some NHL organizations create better environments than other. That's a pretty abstract and relatively intangible concept compared to more easily identifiable things like the quality of a practice rink or a particular skill when it comes to an individual player. Being able to create the right environment takes vision and collective effort to create and sustain.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

2C and depth defenseman please, though I'm expecting nothing.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | February 22, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

David Krecji has outplayed Savard pretty consistently when it counts - which is why Neely pushed Chia so hard to move Savard this summer; of course that terrible contract was one nobody wanted. The B's were 7-2 in the playoffs last year with Krecj in the lineup - and promptly got steamrolled by Philthy [oh-and-four straight] once Richards head-shot him. Lucic in particular is a different player with and without Krecji. Not saying Julien doesn't love him those French-Canadian boys, but Krecji's simply a much better all-around player, even before Savard got hurt again.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:09 PM

Exaclty, I understand that which is why a specifically qualified the statement and said highest-paid C. From an investment perspective, they lost roughly a Backstrom and are still a beastly team. That is depth and depth in the right places. We couldn't absorb the loss of our highest-paid C and perform anywhere near the way the Bruins have.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I can't think of another GM on a good team that so consistently seems to overpay bottom 6 forwards [and bottom 2 d-men I guess]. The frustrating thing is other guys are available for those slots - ie., didn't Hendricks come here on a tryout contract, IIRC? - so there's seemingly no need to overpay for those guys.

It'd be one thing if we were DET and kept Draper after multiple Cup runs - but I don't know anybody confusing Steckel with Draper.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:18 PM

Another good post.

I'd say it's less of an overpayment issue though and more of an issue of simply overvaluing certain lower line forwards. Sounds the same but I'm less concerned about the financial aspect than the lack of bringing in the types of players that we need in those roles.

Maybe a certain level of McPhee arrogance in those decisions in addition to a lack of vision. He loves him his own draft picks.

There is most definitely some overpayment and overvaluing when it comes to d-men.

Just semantics though. I think we're saying the same thing.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

@tmac. I think that is true about us and Centers but I think it is the same with Boston and Chara. If he went down they are in big trouble, maybe not as much now as a week ago but still they are in big trouble. Same goes for if they lost Thomas. Rask was good last year but they need great and Rask hasn't been that this year. Every team has their weakness. Many teams couldn't go two months without their second highest paid winger scoring a single goal. There also aren't many teams who could have their number three goalie have to play 8 games and still be only one point out of 2nd in the conference.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks tmac, right back atcha.

Good point about Knuble - he does do a lot of the dirty work that goes unseen, he is a beast along the boards, not always our strong suit organizationally.

Speaking of organizations, "complacency" is maybe the perfect word for it. I can't remember seeing another team where, following a lazy play [never mind two, or three on the same shift] they wouldn't miss a shift or two - at least. That never happens here, certainly not for BB's chosen guys. Lack of execution is one thing - let's face it, not everybody has Ovie/Malkin's power, or Green or Carlson's athleticism, Backstrom's hands, etc. - but lack of effort is another thing entirely. I found myself agreeing with Mike Milbury last night, something I never thought would happen.

As for Shero, I remember telling somebody [cstanton, I think] this summer to keep an eye out for Brett Sterling. Not a flashy guy, and only like 5'7" - but I saw him play in college, he's as wide as he is tall, goes hard to the net, has an explosive first step, and is "not nice to play against" to quote Milbury. He walked around #55 a few times last night like he wasn't there. And Shero got him for next to nothing, IIRC.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

You are aware that with Savard being on IR for almost an entire year, it frees up that cap space for the Bruins to inflate their roster, right? The Bruins are one of the deepest teams at center, and everyone knew that at the off-season. Losing Savard meant next to nothing to them; they have Krejci, Bergeron, Seguin.

You're blowing this whole thing out of perception.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | February 22, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

"not nice to play against" to quote Milbury.
-------------

Ugh, it's one thing to agree with Milbury [blech!] another thing to quote him - it was Barry Melrose who said that, not Milbury - sorry everybody, my bad! Yuck.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Fair points, icehammer.

I still think the Bs and many other teams have more overall depth at key spots.

I don't think we come close to making up for it in other areas as you were alluding to. McPhee has simply constructed a flimsy and imbalanced roster to no fault but his own.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Good points about the specifics of Boston. I was wrong.

I wasn't wrong about the Caps utter lack of depth at C and that was the key point. Forget the Boston reference and let's start over then:

The Caps would be screwed without Backstrom. That is a big problem that McPhee has repeatedly failed to address. The end.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I'd say it's less of an overpayment issue though and more of an issue of simply overvaluing certain lower line forwards. Sounds the same but I'm less concerned about the financial aspect than the lack of bringing in the types of players that we need in those roles.
------------

Yeah that's true, and I certainly don't want to begrudge these guys salary, I know it could all end at any moment - but just that in a salary cap era, bad contracts can really hamstring an org's flexibility.

I.e., if guys like Kuznetzov, Eakin and Orlov get buried because there's no room to move with guys like Steckel locked up, that's a problem. But you're right, we were pretty much making the same point.

Btw, this was hilarious - moreso if weren't so true:
"Maybe a certain level of McPhee arrogance in those decisions in addition to a lack of vision. He loves him his own draft picks."

I.e., time will tell if it's the right move or not but can you ever imagine GMGM trading away a #1overall like Armstrong just did? And for their coach to not play him when he wasn't producing. I mean, just the cojones to do that, and admit you made a mistake - it was gutsty, I'll certainly give STL that.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Yep, might have to tune into a little of the COL-STL game.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

@tmac. I think that Boston is still a good example but for the defense reason I stated. They were hoping Chara didn't get hurt because if he did they would be in big trouble, so what did they do? They picked up Kabrle who takes away alot of that risk. It would be nice if the Caps did that with the center position. However, I don't want a guy like Spezza because as mentioned by Timbo we have many guys coming in the next 1-2 years and if we have Spezza for instance and the year after next Kuznetzov is ready to be the #2 center we hoped MJ and MP could be and we still have MJ and Eakin at 3/4 and Backstrom at one we are in a position of either having to give up Kuznetzov, have him sit in the minors, or being forced to trade Spezza when other teams know we have too (that doesn't work too well see Boston). That is why at Center I am looking for a guy with 2 more years after this max.

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 22, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

The Caps would be screwed without Backstrom.
--------------
{Shudders at computer}

That is a big problem that McPhee has repeatedly failed to address. The end.
------------

Well, it's not like that's been a problem for awhile or anything, or ever since we tangled with the three-headed buzzsaw of Malkin, Crosby and Staal.

Oh, wait.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

tmac-
I think the softness of this team has more to do with the coach than players. If BB were replace with Craig Ramsey, I think this team would get a lot tougher.

Last year a fan pointed out the lack of instigator penalties this team received under BB. Other teams would take liberties with our skill guys and all BB would do is send out the PP unit. Even when the entire Blue Jackets bench attacked Ovi, ShaMo was the only guy who even looked interested in fighting.

Being a tough guy is not easy. I can't imagine that it would be fun blocking 90+ mph slap shots, taking a beating in front of the net trying to knock in rebounds, or trying to hit every guy that moves. Grinders on other teams know they have to play this way or lose their roster spot. Draft status and personal relationships have allowed the Caps "tough guys" to play soft.

"Steckel was drafted in the 1st round, there is no way he should be expected to hit fight."

"B. Gordon was drafted four spots after Semin so that means he's a skilled forward too."

Given the choice, I think 90% of the guys in the league wish they had it as easy as Steckel, Gordon, or Chimera. Which is probably why BB was voted the easiest coach to play for.

Posted by: ablake70 | February 22, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it guys this team won't look the same in a year or two anyway. Knuble, Laich, Bradley, Gordon, Hendricks and Hannan are all UFA at season's end. Perreault, Alzner and Varly are RFA. Something's gotta give anyway you look at it. The year after that Semin, Fehr, Chimera, Green and Carlson will need contracts. Some of these guys will need beefy raises. Regardless of what GMGM does or does not do at this trading deadline, big changes are on the way. Not trying to be a downer here. It's just $$$$$$$$.

Posted by: Cayugalaker | February 22, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Being a tough guy is not easy. I can't imagine that it would be fun blocking 90+ mph slap shots, taking a beating in front of the net trying to knock in rebounds, or trying to hit every guy that moves. Grinders on other teams know they have to play this way or lose their roster spot. Draft status and personal relationships have allowed the Caps "tough guys" to play soft.

"Steckel was drafted in the 1st round, there is no way he should be expected to hit or fight."
--------------

So very true, ablake - well put. I could never do what Bradley does, it is effing courageous. And hard. I even think there's another component - if you watch other top coaches in the NHL, in blowouts, they'll give 3rd and even 4th-line guys some power play time, as a little reward / incentive. Invariably those guys play their @zzes off the next game, too - it carries over. They seem to have zero interest in running up the score; I like BB but he does seem to be a little too into the stat-padding, IMHO.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I wish I could start transfusing blood from Bradley, Hendricks, and Erskine into the "Pansie patrol".

We would probably hoist !

Thanks Brads for being one of the few guys who plays "NHL hockey" on this team.

We'll miss you. You deserve better !

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | February 22, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Semin is probably having Menstrual cramps. He'll be OK until the D picks up in the play offs.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | February 22, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The Caps should be grateful that they're not in the WC where the defending champs Chicago with a goal differential of plus 23 which is 11 better than the Caps is currently outta the playoffs.

Posted by: joek443 | February 22, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I still think Boston, prior to the Kaberle deal, was better equipped to lose Chara than we would be to lose Backstrom but I've dropped the argument about Boston. richphil made some good points that I overlooked, particularly about the cap space they got from Savard going on the IR. I still think they and a lot of other teams have consistently done a better job of roster building than the Caps.

I still wouldn't mind getting Spezza though. I'll take the proven commodity, contract and all, over potential given how much we need C depth. Kuznetsov may not be ready for years and he could play wing when he is ready, right? I imagine we'd be able to find room for the likes of Kuznetsov, Eakin and any other quality young players even with the addition of Spezza and his contract but if you guys say it isn't financially feasible, I'll accept that.

For the cap gurus out there, project the cap space we'd have available 3 years from now or so if this was the skeleton of our roster. Maybe I could see better why it isn't feasible with actual numbers in front of me.

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Fehr
?-Spezza-Kuznetsov
Laich-Johansson-?
?-Eakin-?

?-Green
Alzner-Carlson
Schultz-Orlov

Varlamov or Neuvirth (not both assuming they both are due for signficant raises at some point)

We'd have 3 high-paid forwards in Ovechkin, Backstrom and Spezza and maybe 2 high-paid d-men. Let's define high-paid as $5 mil or more.

That doesn't seem unreasonable without any detailed projections.

Additionally, I don't imagine Spezza would be some kind of dead weight contract that we couldn't move if and when somebody else is ready to fill the role more cheaply. If I'm seeing it correctly, Spezza only has 3 years left on his current contract. That isn't much at all.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

icehammer97

I was thinking the same thing about getting a center with not that many years left. But If we somehow could trade Semin+ for Stastny/Pavelski/Krejci/Vermette, Kuznetsov could easily be used as a winger, like he is right now in KHL when he's ready to come over.

Posted by: Walle | February 22, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it's 4 years after this one, not 3, but that still doesn't seem unmanagable. I still think he'd be a very movable contract 3 years from now if we wanted to go that way for any reason. Even if he wasn't performing well, he'd represent a nearly expiring contract at that point.

Bottom line, he is a known commodity at this level while none of our youngsters are, including the ones currently with the Caps. Kuznetsov looked like a special talent but he doesn't look close to ready physically for the NHL. I'd say he's at least 2 to 3 years away from being where he needs to be physically, even if he comes over sooner. He may even benefit from playing a year or two along a vet center like a Spezza before taking over the reigns.

Regardless, if someone feels like crunching numbers, show me why Spezza's contract might prevent us from being able to find room financially for any of our top prospects.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

http://nhlnumbers.com/teams/OTT?year=2011

Based on that link, Spezza is in year 3 of a 7-year contract with a $7 mil per cap hit. Assuming none of our kids would be a superior option within the next 2 or 3 years, he'd only have 1 or 2 years left by the time they may be ready.

They could play next to him or we should have no problem moving him at that point if need cap space. He'd either represent a very good player that other teams would want or a nearly expiring contract, or both.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

@tmac - I really like the look of your potential lineup a couple years down the road - although personally I'd rather see Erskine paired with Orlov, over Schultz. Your point about GMGM probably not moving him is true, but Erskine has really grown on me since last year, what a great teammate.

I've always heard about Spezza having 'locker room issues' but never known what they are. The guy's a really good playmaker though, that I know.

Good call about Kuznetzov playing wing, I hadn't thought about that. A Russian buddy told me he's in consideration for their WC team - not many 18 yr. olds have done that.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Your point about GMGM probably not moving him is true
----------

The "him" I referred to is #55 - I can't see GMGM moving him - hopefully I'm wrong.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 22, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

And if we can't handle Spezza's contract, that means we can't handle Semin long-term either and I've seen a bunch of people propose signing Semin long-term.

If the reports are to be believed, even McPhee was willing to do a long-term deal but Semin's agent nixed it.

For those of you that want to keep Semin long-term but think we can't afford Spezza, how much would Semin's market value be hypothetically for the next 5 years? I venture it wouldn't be much different than that of Spezza.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Spezza has 4yrs left @ 7M cap hit. Should we really pay that for a 2C? At 27 yrs old, he would still figure in there long-term plans so, they aren't going to give him away.

Posted by: chriscaps | February 22, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Timbo_1- Good point about PP time. BB only uses the 3rd/4th line guys to punish the big guns.

This reminds me of two quotes, one by Konopka and one by Laich.

Konopka told the press that the Islanders brawl with the Penguins was an effort to protect their star players. He said that Tavares is destined to be a star in the league and the guys on the team wanted to make sure he reached that level.

When Ovi was sidelined in the Columbus game, Laich told a reporter that it was a good thing because Ovi being out gave other guys a chance to prove themselves.

I got pissed with Laich after that one, but it makes sense after reading your post about PP time. Everyone wants to feel that they are valuable to the team. Maybe BB isn't a guy who appreciates the non scoring aspects of the game? If this is true and the players know it, what incentive do they have to do anything but try to score?

FTR, I do think the Caps have gotten tougher this year. No way Erskine jumps Sutton after the Hendricks hit last year. He would have been banished to the press box for negating a PP opportunity.

Posted by: ablake70 | February 22, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm basically saying that yes, we should pay that for a 1C/2C of his age and caliber. And I know OTT wouldn't give him away for a bad return. The only reason I mentioned him was that I heard they may be shopping him. If that isn't true, then this is a moot discussion.

If they are, what are there needs/goals?

I'd be willing to part with Semin and a high pick or prospect.

Why would they want Semin other than the fact that Semin has torched them at times?

Perhaps because Semin is only a 1-year commitment if they're looking to cut costs.

If they want something else, we should be able to offer up an acceptable package. I mean, McPhee has supposedly been stockpiling assets so we should have enough of whatever they want.

Posted by: tmac2yao | February 22, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Once again I get drawn in by an overblown headline. I wouldn't exactly describe that hit as getting 'destroyed'. Lose the hyperbole. Checks like that occur multiple times every game.

Posted by: randysbailin | February 23, 2011 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Schultz still being on this team is why BB needs to go. How many times are we going to see Schultz pull up before hitting an opposing forward in the corner? Weak clearying attempts? Sissy slap shots from the point? Clumsy attempts at cross checking someone from the crease? Enough alreay!
PS
IMPROVE THE MIDDLE NOW

Posted by: nwdodson | February 23, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I could watch that a 100 times.

He got a charging penalty becuase he went from a neutral place on the ice (not imeadiate vicinity of the puck) gathered up a head of steam for the sole purpose of plowing into a targeted player. He has to call that. The ref made a reasonable assesment given the history and confirmed by Bradley's own comments that he specifically targeted Cooke. Bradley also did take at least strides (the official rule) The fact that is was Cooke is the reason it was 2 minutes instead of 5 minute major, which is the ussual call for a charging penalty such as that.

Posted by: akmzrazor | February 23, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

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