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Morning roundup: Power play hits a wall (updated)

Since Alex Ovechkin has returned from an injury and suspension, the Caps' power play has struggled, converting on only three of its last 23 man advantages.

Coach Bruce Boudreau, who called his team's power play "horrible" after another 0-for-4 performance in Friday's 3-2 loss to Vancouver, thinks the power outage is merely a function of the ebbs and flows associated with an 82-game schedule.
"I hope the suggestion there isn't, 'Let's take Alex off the power play,' " said Boudreau when asked about the team's struggles since Ovechkin's return. "We're going to go through these stages as every team in the world goes through them and then we're gonna go [14] for 32 again, and that's gonna bring the average back up again. I'm not worried about it. We're in a little funk on the power play; things will work out."

Some additional odds and ends:

*Bog readers and Bog writers (AKA Dan Steinberg) agree: Alex Ovechkin is the D.C. athlete of the decade.

Steinberg's explanation: He's D.C's first major pro athlete you could plausibly argue was the best in the world at his sport in at least 25 years. And to be honest, comparing NFL MVP Joe Theismann or Super Bowl MVP John Riggins to Ovechkin is a severe reach. It's hard to imagine Ovechkin not being on the short list of top D.C. athletes of the 21st century. He won two MVPs, brought life back to a moribund franchise, created unforgettable highlights, and became one of the faces of his league. There's no debate that he was D.C's best of this decade.

*Eastern Conference trade bait? (The Hockey News)

*Caps are just happy to be home. (Washington Times)

*Alex Ovechkin, The Hockey News cover boy. (Alex Ovetjkin)

*Marty Brodeur is the NHL's shutout king -- and the record-breaker came against the defending champ Pittsburgh Penguins. (Fanhouse)

Update: Also, forgot to mention this sooner, but today you'll be seeing some updates on the blog from Gene Wang, our new Caps backup. He's a cool guy and knows his stuff, so be nice.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  December 22, 2009; 8:49 AM ET
 
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Next: First full practice in days well-attended

Comments

Last night we saw a spirited Buffalo team come back when they were being outplayed and Marty Brodeur get one for the books against a hated rival, and we play both of them in our next two games. Great goaltenders, hot teams. Time to make a statement.

That stated, Lindsay and Tarik could you please pass on to the print staff that the coverage of these games is godawful. Brodeur captures a record for the ages and it garners only the 25 words atop the box score, and the Caps are playing the Sabres tomorrow night. Given that the Caps are by far the greatest game in town, maybe it's time to expand to at least a full page of hockey coverage, for goshsakes. You already get the AP rundown. How bout expanding it and providing a few headlines for other league play?

Posted by: Sonyask | December 22, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Sonyask | December 22, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Uh-oh. Here's what the THN "Trade Bait" article had to say about Caps:

Washington Capitals: Eric Fehr. The Capitals remain a strong offensive team that lacks experienced defensive grit crucial to post-season success. They’ll have to re-sign key players next summer, which could make budding star Fehr trade bait now.

This would be one way to alleviate cap situation going forward (you could use Bouchard in his place), but not the way that would please JSchon.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Sonyask, re: next two games are time to make a statement. The Devils are 6-0 against the Caps + Pens and are proving to be the team to beat in the East. We need to get a win against them before the playoffs.

Posted by: kenjabi | December 22, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

@tominfl1 -- might not please JSchon, but it is interesting food for thought. Of the big potential trades I suspect a significant number of Caps fans could live with it if it brings the right guy to the team. Fehr's got tons of upside, but we tend to see it in bunches.

Posted by: Sonyask | December 22, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

No.... NOT E.FN.FEHR!!!!!

Posted by: JSchon | December 22, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

The bottom line is the Caps have 6 capable 1st and 2nd line wingers:

Ovi, Semin, Flash, Fehr, Laich, Knuble.

Going forward 5 of those are young. Keeping all 5 puts a huge % of cap money in forwards and make you overpay for a 3rd liner.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

On schedule:

Caps have played 15 of 36 at home. NJ, Chi and Pitt have played a much home-friendlier schedule. The trip to SJ and LA means only two games after that (Chi, StL) in a different time zone. 21 of first 36 on road; 21 of last 36 at home.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

The bottom line is the Caps have 6 capable 1st and 2nd line wingers:

Ovi, Semin, Flash, Fehr, Laich, Knuble.

Going forward 5 of those are young. Keeping all 5 puts a huge % of cap money in forwards and make you overpay for a 3rd liner.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Of those, Semin's too great, Flash may continue to bulk up and is exhibiting brilliance, and Laich is the heart and soul (could easily wear the C), shows grit + great skill, and continues to improve. I love Fehr, but...

Posted by: Sonyask | December 22, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

. . . left off Knuble, but he has amply filled a piece missing previously.

Posted by: Sonyask | December 22, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see the direction GMGM, TL and BB take when determining the roster for the foreseeable future.

tominfl - or anyone else, what would you do... this summer, next summer... try to keep salary cap ramifications in mind, if you can...

Posted by: JSchon | December 22, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Sonyask: I would hate to trade Fehr for a rental. That's a million times different than Ted Ruth for Fedorov. I could though see moving either Flash or Fehr in a deal for a young, capable, tough d-man whose contract has yet to enter the stratosphere. Of course, OTOH, Carlson might be that d-man and we already have him.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

JSchon: If I'm GMGM, I have a list (like I posted yesterday) of what the roster is, with salaries, for like the next four years. Yes, I would have that list. I would have each list with all the players I want and their (hopeful) salaries. Then next to players whose salaries are projection (like Semin & Backie), I have a "succession planning" list for fallback.

Second, I try and shoehorn the players in at contracts we can afford, and get them to sign. As we have discussed, moving Flash up to $3.3M or even $4M makes either Semin, Laich or Fehr almost unkeepable. So then you have to swap someone for lower and younger salary, or maybe a vet at a reasonable price and a pick. Everything is a juggling act.

For instance, before you can move Fehr, you need to have the replacement lined up. That player's name is Bouchard. He then must come through, and the advantage, if he does, you save $1M or more per year for the next three years while you keep the "salary hounds of Baskerville" at bay as long as you can.

Ken Holland I think wrote the book.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

@tominfl1 -- I hear you. Fehr's still young and he's really gotten into the swing of producing this year. Nothing's easy.

Posted by: Sonyask | December 22, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

JSchon: One more thing I do, is I try not and deviate from my plan. Let's take Semin as an example. I've done lots of analysis and I say he's worth $6.0-6.1M. Now, I'm an amateur. The club though does the same analysis. Let's say the club is using that same figure. Now, say Semin "demands" $7M. Do you pay him just because that's what he wants? No. Paying one player $1M too much means you will have a $1M d-man rather than a $2M d-man as a consequence. Now, if Semin will accept several hundred K more than his "worth," you go for it.

$200K extra...yes. $1M extra...no.

But then you have to squeeze that extra $200K from someone else. That is what I mean by managing it just like a budget (and not like the gov't).

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

LW's
Ovechkin - Forever
Flash - RFA
Laich - 2011/2012 UFA
Osala - 2011/2012 RFA
Bourque - RFA
Laing - UFA
Della Rovere - 2012/2013 RFA

C's
Backstrom - RFA
Steckel - UFA
Morrison - UFA
B.Gordon - RFA
Gustafsson - SWE
Johansson - SWE
Perreault - 2011/2012 RFA
Beagle - RFA
Wilson - RFA
Eakin - JR
Broda - JR

RW's
Semin - RFA
Knuble - 2011/2012 UFA
Clark - 2011/2012 UFA
Fehr - RFA
Bradley - 2011/2012 UFA
Bouchard - 2011/2012 RFA
Kugryshev - Jr
A.Gordon - RFA

Where are deepest?

Posted by: JSchon | December 22, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

LW seems strongest - three bonifides going forward. C is biggest question mark because you don't know on Baby Gus, Perreault and Johnasson. RW becomes a real weakness if Semin leaves, unless maybe you could swap Laich or Flash to right side.

It would be great to keep BMo two more years until the younger guys pan out. But, there's a tradeoff.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Please please please trade Bouchard away. He's awful. He went on a great streak in points in Hershey at the beginning of the season, but so could an Ape that was promoted to the top line to replace a key player. Then Perreault left and Bouchard did nothing - now Perrault's back and Bouchard got a goal. The guy can't do anything without Perreault holding his hand. He has a bad attitude, skates through the motions with no effort, and refuses to play anything resembling defense.

Posted by: OverTheBoards | December 22, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

New caps back up Lindsey? I think you Tarik and Mark are pretty solid. If it aint broke...

Posted by: Leeale | December 22, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@JSchon

Bourque is gone, right?

Not nitpicking, just making sure I didn't miss something.

Posted by: washcapsfan | December 22, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

@tominfl1 and jschon: what would you do about the goalies? I know you might have already addressed this, but my memory isn't so great.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | December 22, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

@washcapsfan

Bourque was put on waivers by Pitt a few weeks ago and we picked him back up

Posted by: fedsfan91 | December 22, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

sweet!

Posted by: washcapsfan | December 22, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Hey, now! I'm still the hockey editor, and I'm not going anywhere (um, I hope). Mark will still help out. This only means more Caps coverage, so break out the bubbly.

Posted by: Lindsay Applebaum | December 22, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

dccitizen1: Unless the club moves considerable salary, they can't afford anything next year more than the two entry-level deals for Varly and Neuvy.

It gets dicey after next season though because both we will RFAs going into 2011-2012.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

what happened to Katie doing the caps coverage?

Posted by: _stevo | December 22, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Who do you what to keep Semin Or Backstrom. I think those two players will be the trade bait because of the high salaries they will demand.Do you want flash and fehr or just semin.I know the possiblies are endless but gmgm has to be thinking salary cap. Right now there is only 2.251 mil to play with. http://www.nhlnumbers.com/overview.php?team=WAS&season=0910

Posted by: sporttraveler | December 22, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I really don't like the idea of moving Fehr. I'm hopeful that Knuble can teach him how he needs to play.
HN also states that Ottawa is looking for a puck-moving d-man, which I have also read elsewhere. I think Poti has a similar cap hit as Volchenkov. We would probably have to sweeten the pot a bit, but that would certainly be my preferred deal.

Posted by: zmega | December 22, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Hey, now! I'm still the hockey editor, and I'm not going anywhere (um, I hope). Mark will still help out. This only means more Caps coverage, so break out the bubbly.

Posted by: Lindsay Applebaum

Even more Caps updates--be still my heart but I am excited by that thought. I just put some bubbly on ice.

Many thanks to you, Tarik, and the rest of the ace team covering the Caps. I love how I can come here for my one-stop shopping for Caps coverage with all the links for outside Caps coverage that I could ever need.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | December 22, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Re the issue of the Caps power play problems - I just spent the weekend in Chicago and attended the Blackhawks games against Boston and (the hated) Red Wings. Like the Caps, the Blackhawks have a very talented and exciting young team; also like the Caps their power play has been awful.

What I liked about the Hawks is their ability to block or cut off shots - the Red Wings didn't have a shot on goal until the end of the first period! So when you see their goalies (including the hated Huet) get shut outs, look at how many/few shots on goal they faced - I think the stats show Chicago allowing the fewest shots in the NHL.

So let's not bemoan the power play - it will get turned around and I know that we can continue to win regardless. Let's Go Caps!

Posted by: DevilsCapsGal | December 22, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Everybody have fun tonight...Everybody Wang Chung

Posted by: SA-Town | December 22, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Lindsay- Are you worried for Gene because his last name is Wang? As a group of intelligent adults, one would think we could refrain from such immature behavior.

Thankfully you know better haha bring on the Wang jokes ;)

Posted by: mrszilla | December 22, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Re the power play, I wouldn't suggest taking Ovi off the PP as BB mentions, but I would move him off the point. He does not handle the puck well there, leading to breakaway chances the other way and lost opportunities when he can't keep the puck in the offensive zone. It was clear that things worked well when Ovi was out and BMo manned the point, along with Green. I would keep Ovi near that spot on the wing where he is so effective with one-timers.

Posted by: zmega | December 22, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see the direction GMGM, TL and BB take when determining the roster for the foreseeable future.

tominfl - or anyone else, what would you do... this summer, next summer... try to keep salary cap ramifications in mind, if you can...

Posted by: JSchon | December 22, 2009 9:33 AM


@ JSchon...

Next year (including contract extensions/renewals) I would roll with:

Ovie/Backs/Knubes($9.5/$6.1/$2.8 =$18.4M)
Sasha/B.Mo/Laich ($6.0/$2.1/$2.1 =$10.2M)
Flash/Stecks/Osala($3.0/$1.1/$0.9 =$5.0M)
Brads/Clark/Laing ($1.0/$2.6/$0.9 =$4.5M)
Depth: Perreault ($0.8M)

Forwards (13 total) = $38.9M

Green/Erskine ($5.25/$1.25 = $6.5M)
Poti/Alzner ($3.5M/$1.73M = $5.3M)
Juice/Carlson ($1.8M/$0.85M = $2.7M)
Depth: Sloan/Finley ($0.9M/$0.85M = )

Defense (7 total) = $16.25M

Varly/Neuvirth ($.821M/$.821M = $1.6M)

Total ALL 23 players = $56.7M

I realize the cap may decrease, and I don't see how the Caps accomodate Semin, Backstrom, Flash, AND Fehr...I think with his strong play, the best route is to dangle him for a high draft pick, or low(er) budget grit defenseman...maybe even package Schultz and Fehr...both are over-achieving right now...and I think they'd be totally different players on any other team in the league...

Just my opinion...great question..!

Posted by: netminder71 | December 22, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

sorry, that's 8 defensemen, not 7. Dollars are correct.

Posted by: netminder71 | December 22, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

@netminder71 there's no way that Joe Finley will ever be a defenseman for the washington capitals. If we can fish Orlov back from the KHL, that'd be huge.

And since when is it considered a funk when everyone stands still, you can't get into the offensive zone, and if you do, you can't keep the puck?

Posted by: wis193 | December 22, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

zmega: I was saying when Ovi was out that BMo was most effective point man on the PP. Has the ability to slow things down a bit, something Backie will eventually do (lead the PP).

I also don't like when Ovi stays the full two minutes. I don't have stats, but I think our PP efficiency drops in the second minute.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm not worried about the PP... they're gonna go thru good and bad stretches.

The unit everyone should worry about is the PK unit. If it doesn't improve, it will eventually sink the whole team in the playoffs.

Posted by: joek443 | December 22, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I think the PP struggles when the other players only focus on setting up Ovie for shots.

When Ovie was out everyone was taking shots on net which makes it much more difficult for the opposing team to stop since all players are threats. I think the other guys need to start shooting more. This would take advantage of the space they are getting and in turn would open up more space for Ovie.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 22, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

joek443: Would you offer Semin for Pavel Datsyuk? Would the Wings do that to jump start their team? Helps them with the cap, and we can now afford it. He's signed 4 more years at $6.7M. Gives us a Selke winner who can also work on the PK.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 22, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

@ tominfl1

I don't think you need to pay a heavy price to get a good defensive forward via a trade or FA. you just need to draft and develop them.

I heard last week that the Devils already had someone in the minors who would replace John Madden and they drafted him for that specific purpose. and that's why they let Madden go in the off-season.

Posted by: joek443 | December 22, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

isn't Fehr bound to replace Knuble/Clark at right wing? why should we trade him if the only obstacles are really.. contracts of Knuble and Clark!

trading Poti probably is risky because we will have... what, 1 puck-moving defender in Green? and if he will get injured? Carlson isn't exactly ready for cup contender, is he?

so I guess we need 1) to not seek for expensive FA-stay-at-home-defender 2) capitalize on Boudreau's AHL children contracts and get good (cheap enough) extensions with Schultz, Fehr, Fleishmann, Steckel and Laing.

if we are calculating Laing as 0,5M -> 0,9M it's not like a hometown discount. its more like a robbery! same for others. Fleishmann being the main concern dollar-wise.

also one of ShaMo/Juice could be resigned for 1 year if price is good enough - this will be instead of said Volchenkov :^(

probably Pothier can give us a huge discount in case we trade Poti suddenly


so! overall in this case all team is young, all forwards are staying, the defense is even younger (cheap), and goaltending even more. these all still provide us with good chances in regular season and possibility to get some rentals (ExpDefender/3rdCenter) at trade deadline both this season and next also!

imho worth trying. underperforming from varly/neuvy/johansson/carlson is a risk.


other possibilities are denied by poti/clark/nylander/knuble contracts. so keeping all forwards anyhow till 2011/2012 will save our potential. potential + gained experience = 3 cups in a row!


hail OV x 3 times

good night

Posted by: Rambutan_ru | December 22, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

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