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Posted at 3:53 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Capitals are still searching for balance

By LaVar Arrington

As the NHL season nears the All-Star break, the Caps seem to be a team that is continuing to improve with every game. Even with their latest hot streak, this team still is not there yet and these guys understand clearly what their major challenge is moving into the second half of the season.

They will tell you it's balance. For so long this team has been known for its explosive offensive firepower. They were known for scoring quickly and destroying teams when they had power plays.

But while dominating on the offensive side of the ice at times, the Caps' defense was shaky and the team's inability to execute penalty kills successfully became evident last season. So that's what they focused on in the offseason.

General Manager George McPhee made some offseason and in-season moves, and Coach Bruce Boudreau improved the team's strategy on defense.

This season the Capitals have been very successful with penalty kills and on defense they've been better. Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov have been so impressive between the pipes that it's a constant battle as to who will be the mainstay. For now, it's Varlamov.

But with all the success on defense, the identity of this team is scoring goals, and that's just not happening this season. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin have struggled terribly to find the net this season and their goals and points are down dramatically from last season.

Mike Green is a weekly guest on my radio show, The LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes on 106.7 FM, and I recently asked him what the team's biggest concern is at this point in the season.

His answer was balance. His assessment of the the team was that they know they can score and they know that they can play defense, but it seems that they do only one at a time. They are either strong on defense with high success on penalty kills but not good on power plays, or the other way around. Mike made it clear that the Caps are working on finding balance on both sides of the ice.

It will be critical for this team to address that balance issue during the rest of the regular season. If the Caps are able to find that balance they are all talking about, this team will become more dangerous than it already is right now. The Caps will need to put it all together if they are to make a strong run into the playoffs.

By LaVar Arrington  | January 11, 2011; 3:53 PM ET
 
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Next: Lesson for the Capitals: Finding balance on a talented team

Comments

This is a good piece - especially pointing out how much the stellar play of the Caps' keepers [first Neuvy, now Varlamov] has improved their overall D & goals-against.

Offensively, the Caps have always struck me as somewhat streaky [not uncommon in hockey vs. good competition, to be fair] - goals tend to feed off each other, then lead to more as the opponent opens up defensively [out of necessity, similar to football]. BUT: now that teams have figured out their power play, the goals aren't pouring in like they used to.

Last spring, MTL came up with a brilliant answer to the Caps PP - pressure the d-men, and force turnovers. It is time to change things up - and a good start would be moving Ovie off the point [he's played forward his entire life, except for under Coach Boudreau] and down low, where few d-men in the whole league match up with his speed and power. And I am not crazy about some of the decision-making when Ovie and Green are together on the point, facing PK pressure from quick forwards [like Plekanec, etc.].

The puck movement seems much better when Carlson is out there, on one of the points. And guys skate more, knowing they'll get the puck if they get open. You gotta move your feet, there's way too much standing around on the PP right now.

Just my two cents.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 11, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Hey Lavar - This is a nice little piece. I am interested to know if you ever encountered a similar predictment during your own career? For example, as a linebacker did you ever have trouble playing against a certain team that was adept at passing and running? Did you find that you could take away the run, but at the expense of solid pass protection? Maybe a better example might be the safe play vs. the big play. Jumping a route versus playing more conservatively. Explaining how you found that balance or a team you played for found that balance would be really interesting for us to read, especially coming from a pro athlete that has "tackled" these type of circumstances against elite competition. Thanks.

Posted by: Cherno | January 11, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

This so-called "balance" the Caps are trying to achieve this year is painful for Cap's fans to watch. We just witnessed our Caps go down to the hapless Panthers tonight. The worst statistical team for power plays scorched the Caps for 3 tonight. As is typical for the Caps this year, we laid a goose egg, again, on our power play. Maybe Bruce can try to coach the boys up a bit to work harder when we're up a man. FWIW, we had 3 monster whiffs right in front of their net, with Ovie's being particularly awful.

Posted by: gaffmeister | January 11, 2011 10:18 PM | Report abuse

This team is terrible do you hear me BB ! You have taken a great group of hockey players 75% 1st rd draft picks and you have turned them into the biggest pile of Shitezs anybody has ever seen. Hope the truth hurts BB . We have NO leadership , we have NO desire . I mean do you think that these young group of men are just tired of playing for you , You think they might think you suck ! ?

Posted by: terryreece | January 12, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

HAY L A , WHEN ARE YOU GONNA DITCH THAT FAT WHITE mf THEY CALL TURD DUKES ? wHEN ARE YOU GONNA SAY HAY WHIYE BOI STOP RIDEN MY SHIRT TAILS AND GET YOUR OWN . L A YOU NEED A LITTLE SEXY GAL IN THERE WORKING THAT BLACK MIC LIKE TURD DUKES ? US WHITE FOLKS ARE TIRED OF HIS TRAILER PARK STYLE OF TALK . IM TRUELY SORRY HE IS WHITE . AT FIRST I THOUGHT HE WAS A SPAINARD .... IS TURD DUKES YOUR CLOSET B$%$%#@H DOES HE DO IT GOOD FOR YA L A ? LOLOLOL

Posted by: terryreece | January 12, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Here is my question, LaMar -- maybe you can ask Mike Green about it. It seemed that the team was most successful last year when Boudreau finally stopped tinkering with the lines and they became fixed. Ovie was always out there with Backstrom and Knuble, etc. And what happened was that the players started to pass to each other, rather than just dumping the puck in the corner, because with consistent teamwork and practice, they began to know, almost instinctively, where the other guy was always going to be. This seems utterly missing this year. Is this a fair analysis?

Posted by: fmjk | January 12, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

LaVar,

Did you ever settle up all those issues with your restaurant and those unpaid employees with saw on the news?

Posted by: LavarsEgooutweighsbroadcasttalent | January 18, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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