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Posted at 10:51 AM ET, 02/15/2011

The Caps confuse Ray Whitney

By Dan Steinberg

(By Paul Connors - AP)

Watching low-scoring Caps games on TV and following along online as Caps fans bang their heads into their keyboards is getting pretty depressing. Also, repetitive. The stats people cite alone could fill up a blog item. Some samples from Monday night.

Ted Starkey: Offense has produced three goals in three games, one of which came off a Coyotes player.

Sky Kerstein: Caps 10 shots on the PP...0 goal. Coyotes 1 shot on the PP, 1 goal.

Neil Greenberg: Down 1, I'd expect Caps to have more than 0 scoring chances in last 11 minutes.

Mike Vogel: Look, here it is in a nutshell. Caps led league in goals scored and PP last year. By a lot. This year, they're around 20th in both. Caps on pace to allow 198 goals, fewest since they allowed 194 in 1999-00. It's not goaltending. Not defense.

In case you need help figuring out the rest, here's a quick diagnosis: it's the offense. It's not really like it used to be. In the sense that the Caps don't score any more. Which is why Coyotes winger Ray Whitney turned his second-period Versus intermission into a little speech about that offense.

"Are you surprised how tight Washington's playing?" Whitney was asked.

"Well, after playing against them the last five years in Carolina, eight [or] six times a year, this is a totally different team," he said. "They still have the same skill level, but you can tell that they've made a conscious effort to play smarter defensively. And [that's] not really what I was expecting out of them, but they're certainly doing a good job of it....

"This is kind of our style of play. and we're kind of comfortable with it. To see them doing that is surprising, but I think also they're on to something. I think that's what's gonna, as a group, maybe take them up to that next level."

So I guess that's an endorsement of sort, although it should be mentioned that Whitney's team actually won the game.

After that interview, Versus studio analyst Keith Jones offered a somewhat different take.

"I don't like watching the Capitals play this year," he said. "I'm sorry. I liked watching them when they were wide open. They were fun to watch. I don't enjoy them."

"Good playoff hockey," Brian Engblom interjected, and I guess that's the question.

By Dan Steinberg  | February 15, 2011; 10:51 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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He's right. I think they are on to something. Defense will win in the playoffs, but you can't win if you don't score either. I don't believe this team is in trouble, this is a very very tough part of the schedule they are going through and there are a lot of solid teams in the league now. This is what I like about the NHL, very few "dynasty" type teams any more. Competition is usually pretty good on a night in night out basis, so the NHL has it right on that front. I bet the Caps take 3 of the next 4 on the road, making it 3/5 total for the trip. I'll take that against this competition. Let's hope it comes to fruition. Lastly, I'm not panicking yet, this team is still very good and the defense and goaltending (problems of the last two years) has been pretty damn good. Just gotta start puttin' some pucks in the net. Maybe go back to playing that run n' gun style to make sure we don't work our way out of the playoffs. Then go back to a more defensive type game in the playoffs. I have a hard time believing this team can't change their game to fit the situation. But then again, I've been wrong before.

Posted by: smfoster3 | February 15, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Good defense only pays off if Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin are able to create those few scoring opportunities each game and take advantage of them.

Right now the Caps are losing all the 2-1, 2-0 and 3-2 games.

They need to be the ones creating those third period scoring opportunities that earned San Jose and LA wins against the Capitals.

Without that, the Caps are just a club that is going to lose 1-0 if they make the postseason.

There has to be BALANCE.

For this team it is either one extreme or the other.

Phoenix doesn't have a single scorer in the top echelon of the league and while they play well together as a team, Washington should be able to defeat them in a game following two losses on home ice.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 15, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"Caps on pace to allow 198 goals, fewest since they allowed 194 in 1999-00. It's not goaltending. Not defense."

Uh, what is it then? Is it the board the team puts over their net in the first and third periods?

Is it supposed to read, "Caps on pace to score 198 goals"?

Posted by: Incredulous2 | February 15, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

So right now, the Caps are playing the kind of defense and have the kind of goaltending which can take them far in the playoffs. It hasn't been easy to transition from the run-and-gun teams of the past few years, but they seem to be doing it.

Yes, they will have to tweak the offense if they are going to win all the 3-2 games. And yes, I'd consider trading Semin for an impact forward that crashes the net and provides leadership. No massive housecleaining or firing the coach until we see if the new system works in the playoffs.

It was nice to win the President's Cup, but it'll be better to win the Stanley Cup.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | February 15, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

1. "When you have 2 #1 goalies you have no #1 goalie" Pick one. I know it will be Varlamov. Trade the other with Semin.
2. Move Ovie to right wing permanently, he is a right hand shot. When he carries puck in on right wing his body shields puck from defenseman. His slap shot could re-appear.
3. Use the 3rd and 4th liners on power plays, Gordon, Bradley, Hendricks, with Chimera, Knuble, Laich, and use Steckel and Perreault at Center. People gripe about Perreault but he hustles and throws pucks into the crease and battles in the corners.
4. Sit out Backstrom as a healthy scratch. Let him watch a couple of games.
5. None of this will take place because Boudreau has tunnel vision.

Posted by: wgoodm01 | February 15, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

They don't have the parts for that style of hockey, whether it's right or not for them.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | February 15, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Fire Boudreau!

Posted by: jmarks09 | February 15, 2011 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Fire Boudreau. Did the HBO series not make that black and white?? I called for this last year. Why you ask? The day they were forced out of the playoffs by the Canadiens I took my nephew to a kettler practice. All over the ice, players were fooling around. There was NO focus at all. A few players weren't there-as usual. But what really got me was BRUCE. Bruce wasn't even out on the ice!!! I'm guessing he was doing another crappy commercial. Old Bruce used to always say "how are you going to tell the best player in the world he is doing something wrong on the ice?" REALLY Bruce? You are supposed to be the experienced one that has a vision.
Fire Bruce. He lacks leadership skills and seems to only have an undergrad in the game-not a masters.....

Posted by: nolana | February 16, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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