Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Washington Capitals
Posted on: January 24, 2012 12:24 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 1:28 pm
 

Ovechkin skipping All-Star Game after suspension

Ovechkin has 20 goals and 19 assists. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It was going to be seriously awkward if Alex Ovechkin, a suspended player, were to take up the honor bestowed upon him and attend the NHL All-Star Game this weekend in Ottawa.

Well, awkwardness avoided. The Washington Capitals announced on Tuesday that he will not attend the All-Star Game, instead staying home after being handed down a three-game suspension from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Monday.

"My heart is not there," Ovechkin said on Tuesday. "I suspended, so why I have to go there?

"I'd love to be there, but I'm suspended. I don't want to be a target. I feel I'm not deserving to be there."

Caps GM George McPhee released the information, saying that Ovechkin's heart is not in it and that the team supports him.

McPhee also took it as a chance to make a little statement regarding Ovechkin's suspension.

"I was surprised and disappointed, I didn't anticipate he would be suspended for three game," McPhee said.

It was also the first time the Washington media had a chance to ask Ovechkin for his opinion on the hit since the suspension. Unsurprisingly, he didn't like the ruling much.

"I don't think it was a bad hit or dirty hit," he said. "Yeah, I jumped, but he don't get hurt, I don't get two minutes."

Speaking of suspensions and fines, will Ovechkin be facing one now for skipping the festivities in Ottawa? Remember, players in the past have, including Nicklas Lidstrom.

Well according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the NHL is disappointed but won't punish Ovechkin.

In a way, this sort of rights a wrong if you ask me. I objected to Ovechkin's nomination based on merit this season, there were other guys who deserved it more. I understand the marketing value and name recognition with Ovechkin and completely understood why he was named an All-Star, but on merit alone I didn't think he deserved it.

It was a tough situation for Ovechkin, who said that he didn't deserve to be there after being suspended and didn't want to be a distraction. He was certainly not prohibited from playing in the game because of his suspension, but as I said, it would have been a bit awkward.

However, I don't like Ovechkin skipping the game. It really comes across as being sulky more than anything else. I really don't think he would have provided much of a distraction to the All-Star Game by being there. Suspensions are pretty common these days in the NHL.

I didn't rip Tim Thomas for his decision not to visit the White House yesterday in a form of protest. I was perfectly fine with his decision. But Ovechkin is just passing on this because his heart is not in it? I don't like it all that much. It's obvious people like to watch him play.

A replacement will be named to fill his spot and there's one very notable snub still sitting out there: Penguins forward James Neal. I'd be very surprised if he's not the one to get the call to replace Ovechkin.

On an interesting side note, that means that Dennis Wideman will be the only Capital in the All-Star Game. What do you think the odds would have been on that at the beginning of the season?

More from Eye on Hockey

Ovechkin given three-game suspension
Ovechkin raps in Russian and dances
Dissecting the All-Star picks

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 23, 2012 6:41 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 6:54 pm
 

Alex Ovechkin suspended 3 games



By: Adam Gretz

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has been suspended three games for a hit delivered on Sunday afternoon, the NHL announced on Monday evening.

The hit occurred early in the second period, with the Capitals trailing 2-0, and as he and Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek went into the corner for a loose puck Ovechkin delivered a hit to the head along the boards. There was no penalty called on the play.

"Ovechkin has Michalek lined up for what could and should be a clean, hard body check," said Shanahan on his latest suspension video. "However, he launches himself to deliver the hit on Michalek.

"Although Michalek's shoulder might be the initial point of contact for this hit, the act of launching causes contact to Michalek's head. Often on big hits or collisions a player's feet will come off the ice slightly as a result of the impact. This however is not one of those occassions. Ovechkin drives up, launching and recklessly making contact with Michalek's head."

Shanahan also added that he accepts that Ovechkin did not intend to hit Michalek in the head, but said "the moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit, he becomes responsible for any contact to the head."

Ovechkin's prior history was also taken into account, as he has been suspended twice and fined twice previously in his career. Back in 2009 he received a two-game ban for a knee-on-knee hit to Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason. He also suspended that season for a boarding incident involving Brian Campbell.

He will miss Washington's upcoming games with Boston, Tampa Bay and Florida. Obviously that game against the Panthers, which will take place on Feb. 1, is a big one as the Capitals and Panthers are currently in a back-and-forth fight for the top spot in the Southeast Division. He will be eligible to return to the Capitals lineup on Feb. 4 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Even though he's currently suspended, he will be eligible to play in next weekend's All-Star game in Ottawa.

His absence also adds to the current problems facing the Capitals as the team is already playing without center Nicklas Backstrom and top defenseman Mike Green. Washington is starving for offense right now, and this won't help.

Even though Michalek was on the receiving end of the hit from Ovechkin, he also had a disciplinary hearing with Shanahan on Monday for a hit he delivered in the same game on Capitals forward Matt Hendricks (you can watch it right here). While Ovechkin was suspended for three games, Michalek will not be disciplined for his hit, which will only add more fuel to the fire when it comes to (the lack of) consistency and NHL discipline.

More NHL Discipline news here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 22, 2012 4:46 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2012 11:59 pm
 

Was Ovechkin's hit on Michalek punishable?

By Brian Stubits

Alex Ovechkin is known for his scoring. Since he was selected first overall in the 2004 draft, he's reminded everybody why.

But it shouldn't be forgotten that Ovechkin is also a power forward. He is a big body who will lay the wood. Big hits from Ovechkin aren't uncommon at all.

There was one hit from Ovechkin in particular in the Capitals' OT loss to the Penguins on Sunday afternoon that drew some attention. And not in a good way for the Caps captain.

That hit on the Penguins' Zbynek Michalek drew no penalty call from the officials in the game. Seeing it on replay, it no doubt deserved one, his skates clearly came off the ice to deliver the check to Michalek.

It's close to being a situation where the principal point of contact is the head as well. But it does appear that the first contact comes on Michalek's shoulder before going through to his head.

I wouldn't be surprised if this draws a phone call from Brendan Shanahan. Right now I'd think there's no suspension coming Ovechkin's way but he could get a warning, something Shanahan has done with other players this season. It's certainly within the realm of possibility he could be punished for the hit, but my premonition is that it won't get a suspension. However I've been wrong -- many times -- before when it comes to suspensions this season.

At the least, it was a penalty that was missed in the game. And it was also a reminder about the bad blood that exists in the Pens-Caps rivalry. It's about more than Sid vs. Ovi (that's a big part of what built the rivalry).

It must be mentioned that Michalek had his own questionable hit later in the game. That one did lead to a penalty after he boarded Matt Hendricks in the corner. What goes around comes around I guess.

As is the case with Ovechkin's hit, it will garner a harder look from Shanahan. Any time a player is hit in or near the head, the league will look hard at it.

Now I'll let you make the calls.

UPDATE: Turns out each player could, in fact, be in line for a suspension as the NHL announced on Sunday that night that each player has a discipline hearing slated for Monday.

More NHL Discipline news
Recap: Pens 4, Caps 3 (OT)

H/t to Pro Hockey Talk for second video

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 22, 2012 9:25 am
Edited on: January 22, 2012 7:20 pm
 

The Penguins rediscovered their winning ways

BylsmaBy: Adam Gretz

A little over a week ago the sky appeared to be falling when it came to the Pittsburgh Penguins and their season.

The team was riding a six-game losing streak, they were on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the time being and there was even a discussion as to whether or not some players on the team held a meeting regarding a potential temporary captain in the absence of Sidney Crosby. That, of course, was followed by the entire team hitting the ice for practice by all wearing C's on their jerseys on the same day they started a five-game winning streak, which was extended to six games with a 4-3 overtime win against Washington on Sunday afternoon. 

It would certainly be a nice narrative to suggest that show of solidarity and team-bonding (if you want to call it that) was the springboard for their return to the win-column, but it's actually a lot more reasonable than that: the team simply wasn't as bad as it looked during that stretch, and they got back to doing a lot of the things that originally made them successful.

That six-game losing streak was the perfect storm where slumps, uncharacteristically sloppy play and bad luck all met at the same point in the season. Every mistake they made ended up in the back of their net, and no matter how many chances they generated or shots they fired on goal at the other end, they weren't getting the same fortune and couldn't seem to buy a goal.

Even though offense was difficult to come by, with the team scoring just six goals over the six games, they were still out-shooting their opponents by a significant margin in every game, indicating that they were still controlling puck possession, an area that has been one of the team's strengths ever since Dan Bylsma took over behind the bench during the 2008-09 season. It was also perhaps a sign that, eventually, they would be able to break through.

During that streak the Penguins, as a team, were shooting around 3 percent, while their opponents were pumping in goals at a 14 percent rate, two percentages that were in no way going to continue for an extended period of time (keep in mind, the league average is typically around 9 percent in a given season, as it is once again this year, and the best and worst teams usually shoot in the neighborhood of 10 and 7 percent respectively). While they may have been lacking a large number of true "scoring chances," and a lot of the shots may have been coming from the perimeter, the more time you spend in the offensive zone the more chances there are for a defensive breakdown by the other team, the more opportunities you're going to get for a second or third chance shot, and, really, the more bad things that can happen for the team trying to defend as they get worn down trying to defend, especially against an aggressive forechecking team.

The whole thing was actually pretty reminiscent of the losing streak the Detroit Red Wings had earlier in the season (also a six-game drought, driven largely by a lack of goal-scoring), and one that was followed by them winning 14 of the following 18 games.

Before the Penguins' 5-4 come-from-behind win against Montreal on Friday night, I asked Bylsma if he felt that his team was on the verge of putting together a run of games like this given the way they had previously been playing, and some of the things they were able to do, even in defeat, and he seemed to think it all started to turn around with their 1-0 loss in Washington back on Jan. 11.

"When two losses turns into four and six, you start to feel a little bit like when the next one is going to come," said Bylsma. "We liked a lot of the things we did. We maybe didn't react well to situations in the games, like other teams scoring, making a mistake, maybe a referee call -- we weren't reacting well, and it was causing us to find ways to lose, or find a way to let teams back into games.

"I think it started with the Washington game. Our attitude changed, our mindset changed, and in addition to playing well and having possession of the puck,  we were playing a little bit more with an edge, a little bit more of an attitude and the way we need to play the game."

It also probably wasn't a coincidence that their worst stretch of the season also took place during the exact same time that Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, their two best players this season, hit their first extended slumps of the season. Both have since gone on new scoring streaks, especially Malkin as he continues to shine in the absence of Crosby, and has been one of the best offensive players in the league this season. But Bylsma was also quick to point out that it's not just about his point production, and that he might be playing the best even-strength hockey of his career.

"It's easy to look at the highlights and say he's playing amazing," said Bylsma. "But it's much harder to look at his whole game. How he's playing without the puck, how he's playing defensively, the number of minutes he's playing, who he's playing against, how he and his line with Chris Kunitz and James Neal have been able to play a real dominating game, and not just the fact they're scoring points and getting goals, but maybe his best hockey at 5-on-5 that he's played in his career. And he's been doing it for a long stretch of hockey right now and leading our team."

Among the numerous injuries the Penguins have dealt with at various times this season, one of the most recent was to center Jordan Staal, the player that almost always plays some of the toughest minutes on the team and handles the toughest assignments. In his absence Malkin, one of the few natural centers remaining in the lineup, has taken on more of those responsibilites in recent weeks, playing more minutes and getting more shifts against other teams top lines.

They still have a franchise center, and now that Kris Letang, their best all-around defenseman, is back in the lineup, that six-game losing streak might be starting to become a thing of the past.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 21, 2012 2:23 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2012 2:56 pm
 

Evander Kane has a concussion

By: Adam Gretz

The NHL's concussion list continued to grow on Saturday with the news that Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane will be sidelined with a concussion, according to head coach Claude Noel.

The injury supposedly happened at some point during the Jets' 4-1 win over the Sabres on Thursday, but it's not known at what point in the game it occurred. Obviously, he's not going to play on Saturday night when the Jets host the Florida Panthers.

If he misses an extended period of time it's going to be a big blow to a Winnipeg team that is not only still fighting for a playoff spot, entering the weekend in the No. 10 spot, but also, surprisingly, still has an outside shot at winning the Southeast Division at the present time, trailing the Panthers and Washington Capitals by just three points. If the Jets are able to beat the Panthers on Saturday, they will move to within one point of the top spot in the division.

In 46 games this season Kane leads the Jets with 18 goals, and his 31 points are second on the team trailing only Blake Wheeler's 33.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 3:50 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers and Bruins finally meet

McDonagh's and Seguin's teams renew acquaintances. (Getty Images)

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

Thanks to the scheduling quirks of the NHL, it has taken us until the end of January to get a dose of some real New York-Boston feuding in hockey. No offense to the Devils and the Islanders, but the city-to-city rivalry is reserved for pretty much only the Rangers against the Bruins.

This season, though, the wait has seemed even longer than it really has been. That's because of the little fact that for the first team in a long, long time, the Bruins and Rangers are the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.

There has been some bemoaning lately of the lack of rivalries in hockey. Well this isn't on par with Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, but there's always a little extra flair when it's New York vs. Boston. This one should have a lot of extra flair.

Nobody at this point will dispute the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league this season. You'd be foolish to try. But there are people, myself included, who are still wondering exactly how good are the Rangers? Well what better way to find out than to send them to the hornets’ nest that is TD Garden in Boston to face the defending champs?

Although it’s too bad we could have had this game a week or so ago. By their standards this season, each of these teams has lost some steam going into the game. The Bruins are only 6-4-0 in their last 10 (gasp!) while the Rangers just slightly better at 7-3-0. I laugh about it a little but it was just in the last two weeks that each of these teams had won nine of 10 games.

One of the tricks for each of the coaches is to find ways to keep pushing their guys in the middle of the season, particularly when you've had as much success as these two Original Six squads have. Sometimes that can be as simple as finding a bear to poke (pun clearly intended).

Bruins coach Claude Julien took his poking stick to the midsection of Nathan Horton this week on the Bruins' recent road trip.

"Horton has got to pick up his game. No ifs or buts about it," Julien said after the shootout win at Florida. "A guy his size needs to get more physically involved. He needs to compete a lot harder. He's skating hard, you can see it on the backcheck ... but we need more from him. When he's emotionally engaged, he scores goals and he's a difference-maker. He's got to find his game. We're at the point where we're a little shorthanded and we need him to step up."

Horton responded by scoring twice in the loss to the Lightning and then one more in the win on Thursday night against the Devils. That might be mission: accomplished.

It looks like Rangers coach John Tortorella has his own target to try and prod.

Brad Richards was the star they brought to New York this summer to give Marian Gaborik that other scoring threat and finally give Henrik Lundqvist some much-deserved support. In that regard, Richards has been alright. But that's it.

In 45 games he has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points while carrying a minus-3. That stat still means very little, plus/minus, but on a team like the Rangers, it's tough to be negative. He and Ruslan Fedotenko are the only players on the team with more than 10 games played that are in the red.

Going into the game against the Bruins, Richards hasn't tallied a single point in the last six games. Obviously that's not very good, particularly for a guy making $6.7 million per season.

While Tortorella didn't go anywhere close to the level of criticism that Julien did with Horton, he at least made it known that Richards needs to step up some. From Ranger Rants:

Coach John Tortorella said he didn’t want to analyze individual performances after the game when asked specifically about Staal and Brad Richards. But he acknowledged that Richards’ game wasn’t spot on right now (he was a minus-1 in 16:46 though he won 12 of 16 faceoffs).

If the Rangers can get a point-per-game pace out of Richards like he has been doing for most of the past few seasons, then watch out.

This will be the first of four matchups between the foes this season and each will very likely go a long way in determining who gets home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

If that leaves you wanting more ...

... Then you'll get it. There is no better way to spend Saturday if you're a hockey fan than to tune in to the NHL Network. Once that Rangers-Bruins tilt is done it's on to the next, but it takes no backseat to the first game.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to have a lot of rivalries these days. We all know about their ongoing feud with the Bruins, they have a fierce battle with the Chicago Blackhawks and pretty much any team from Canada.

But don't forget about their rivals to the south in San Jose, too. They've had some damn good playoff battles as well, including that Western Conference final matchup a season ago where Kevin Bieksa was the only person on the ice who knew what the heck was going on.

The Sharks are an interesting team to me. Perhaps it's a situation of just getting used to it, being desensitized to them, but once again they are right there in the race for the Presidents' Trophy this season. Remember, they have games in hand on every single Western Conference team.

Yet they are just quietly trudging along on the West Coast. It's expected from them now to be honest. That's a great compliment to give to the ownership and front office in San Jose.

Unlike the Eastern powers mentioned above, these Western heavies have already met three times this season, so when they dance on Saturday night in Vancouver, it's the last time they'll see each other until next season. Unless ...

Hot, hot, hot!

The Ottawa Senators are 12-2-2 since Kyle Turris came to town. They are in the midst of a very challenging road trip to the West Coast, starting it off with a win on Thursday in San Jose.

When they looked at the itinerary for the road trip, they had to look at the Saturday visit to Anaheim as a little bit of a reprieve on the tough trip. Not anymore.

It took a while, but Bruce Boudreau is seeing the Ducks play the way we all thought they would this season. All of a sudden, these are the two hottest teams in the NHL (what?!?). The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games in their own right.

It's likely well past the time for them to get back into the playoff picture. Even with these 13 points in seven games, they are still 13 points behind Colorado for the eighth spot in the West. What a really strong finish can do, though, is affect the way general manager Bob Murray views his team and thus how much of a seller the Ducks will be at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

In the meantime, each of the Sens and Ducks gets a heat check in one of the few places in either the USA or Canada that it's actually warm right now, Southern California.

Familiar foes

Friday night will feature some old friends facing off as the Florida Blackhawks visit the Chicago Panthers. Wait ...

Since Dale Tallon took over in Florida as general manager, the Panthers have taken on quite a strong feeling of the Blackhawks. They currently carry five former players from Chicago: John Madden, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. Of them, only Skille wasn't a contributor to the Stanley Cup a couple of seasons ago.

To make that happen obviously Tallon had to send some of his Panthers players to GM Stan Bowman in Chicago. It's not as strong the other way but the Blackhawks currently employ former Panthers Michal Frolik, Steve Montador and have Rostislav Olesz and Alexander Salak in the system.

But the player to watch in this battle? How about Andrew Shaw, who is quickly making a big name for himself in Chicago. The 20-year-old forward who was a fifth-round pick by the 'Hawks has five points in the last four games on the strength of a goal in each game. That's led to the Twitter hashtag of #ShawFacts where fans have taken their best Chuck Norris jokes and tailored them for Shaw.

Something else worth watching: With weather conditions as bad as they are in Chicago this weekend, will the Panthers have any problems getting out of town and into Winnipeg in time for their game Saturday against the Jets?

Speak of old friends ...

What would the Tampa Bay Lightning give to have the summer over and keep Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson?

The Bolts will get the chance to see firsthand what has happened to Smith since he moved to the desert this offseason. For those not in the know, what has happened is that he has become a quality starting goaltender for the Coyotes.

The Lightning are giving up more goals than any team in the league. Don't you think Smith and his 2.41 goals against average would be handy in Tampa Bay this season?

Then again, it probably wouldn't be too much different if the defenders in front of Smith were playing the same/as injured as they are in front of Roloson and Mathieu Garon.

Fun doesn't stop Saturday

On Sunday there is a nice pair of battles for matinee games in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins will take on another one of the I-95 corridor powers in the Philadelphia Flyers while the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Washington Capitals for their final bout this season. It might be a bit watered down without Sidney Crosby playing, but it's still worth watching.

Both games are worth it, so get ready to wear out the "last" button on your remote.

We're going streaking!

A look at the winning and losing streaks heading into the weekend.

Penguins: Remember how they just lost six in a row? This is how you rebound from that. The Pens take a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Canadiens before the game against the Caps.

Detroit Red Wings: For the moment, they have taken the lead in the Central Division, which is an unbelievable race this season. Their five straight wins will be put on the line Saturday vs. the Blue Jackets.

St. Louis Blues: They are doing what they can to keep pace with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, and they're doing it just fine. They ride a three-game run into a home game against the Sabres, losers of 10 straight on the road.

Buffalo Sabres: As just mentioned, 10 straight road losses, four in a row overall. Only the one chance in St. Louis to snap it this weekend.

Panthers: They haven't won a game in their last three chances but they have picked up points in two of those three. The double dip this weekend is at Chicago and at Winnipeg.

Minnesota Wild: The ship keeps on sinking. Remember when they were first in the NHL? I hardly do either. Four straight losses and Dallas on tap this weekend.

Dallas Stars: Misery loves company, I suppose. Dallas brings its own losing streak of three games into the weekend, but they get Tampa Bay before facing the Wild.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.
Posted on: January 19, 2012 3:17 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 3:29 pm
 

Advice to the Washington Capitals: Shoot the puck

Ovechkin is shooting a lot, his team isn't. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It's almost everybody in hockey's belief that the Washington Capitals will, in the end, prevail and take the Southeast Division crown. They have been either behind the Florida Panthers or sharing the top spot with them (as they are now) since mid-November.

The rationale goes something along the lines of people believing the Caps can and will play better, or up to their potential, as many say.

Well I can't help but wonder ... what if this is their potential? They aren't the same team they were a couple of years ago. Under new coach Dale Hunter, they won't light teams up. It's not because they don't have players who can score, it's that they stopped shooting the puck.

I'm in attendance for most Capitals home games, I see them play first hand a lot. It seemed to me that every game they have played lately, they have been outshot and outchanced. In this case, perception is reality.

The Capitals have been outshot in each of the last seven games and 12 of the last 13. The only game where they outshot their opponent? The Calgary Flames where the Caps had a 21-19 shot advantage, a number that more often than not will be less than the opponent. In total, they have been outshot in 17 of the 23 games under Hunter.

It actually seems to be getting worse in this regard. The Capitals just played back-to-back games, Tuesday at home vs. the Islanders and Wednesday at the Canadiens. In those two games the Capitals had 33 shots on goal ... combined. The other teams had 59.

In fact, since Hunter came along, the Capitals are averaging only 24.7 shots on goal per game while giving up 30.5 per game. Those team totals are in spite of the fact that Alex Ovechkin is actually still shooting at a high rate, clocking in at fifth in the league in shots on goal. That means the rest of the team? Not so much.

Thanks to my colleague Adam Gretz, here is a chart showing the disparity in shots between the Capitals and their foes, splitting it up also to see the differences between the Bruce Boudreau reign and Hunter era.

You'll notice that the disparity lately is starting to settle into a trend where the Caps are not getting the shots off like their opponents are. It would be logical to assume that that must mean the Caps are focusing more on defense and aren't giving up as many shots either, but that's not the case. Notice in recent games how the volume of shots against has been at 28 or more. To state the obvious, that's not good either, it indicates that they aren't controlling the puck often enough.

What's more, another thing that seemed to me without looking at the stats to be the case is that when the Capitals get ahead, they shut down offensively. It has felt like every game they have won at home recently, the puck has been in their defensive zone for 75 percent of the third period. To illustrate that, take a look at this shots graph from Wednesday's win in Montreal and not the plateaus in Capitals attempts after the goals, marked by the vertical colored lines (via behindthenet.ca). Granted, most teams play more in their zone when they have the lead in the third period, but in the case of the Capitals, it feels pronounced.

Now the interesting part is where I tell you that the Capitals are winning these games. They have won eight of their last 11, in fact.

The question then becomes a matter of if the Capitals can continue to sustain their winning ways if the shot totals remain roughly the same. Let's just say the odds aren't in their favor.

On the season the Capitals are 13-13-2 when they are outshot. It's just more than a point per game, which would put them on pace for around 85 points or so in a full season. Conversely they are 12-5-0 when they outshoot their opponents. It's pretty easy to see the benefits of throwing the puck on net.

Sooner or later those numbers will catch up a team. It's hard to keep up a pace of scoring three goals on 16 shots as they did on Wednesday in Montreal. A shooting percentage a touch under 20 percent in a game? Unsustainable.

One reason why they have been able to creep on the Panthers in the division has been the play of former Panther Tomas Vokoun in net. He has rebounded since he was benched for five straight games and has done an excellent job of keeping the Caps in games and their leads safe.

They have also enjoyed the comfy confines of Verizon Center where they are 17-6-1 this season as opposed to 8-12-1 on the road. Of those eight wins in 11 games, seven have come at home.

Now to be fair, it has to be noted that Nicklas Backstrom has missed each of the last seven games. He is still dealing with post-concussion symptoms since his hit from Rene Bourque when he was with the Flames. That can certainly account for their recent drop in shots, after all he is still the team's leading scorer

The good news in all of this though is that they aren't in a division where a team is going to run away with the lead. We've already seen the Panthers come back to the pack. The same idea holds for the Eastern Conference as a whole. There's still a little less than half of the season to go, but it's sure shaping up to be a situation where there are 10 teams fighting for the eight postseason spots.

But if they don't start throwing the puck on net more, people are going to continue to wait to see their potential.

It's an adage as old as the game itself: Just throw the puck on net and see what happens. There is hardly ever anything bad that can come from getting the puck on goal. A soft shot might go in. A surprising rebound might present itself like a big present underneath the Christmas tree. Or in some cases the goalie can freeze the puck to cause a faceoff in the offensive zone. Stats show how valuable that is to creating offense.

I'd suggest the team adopt the motto of shoot first, ask questions later.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:03 pm
 

Capitals prepare to face Rene Bourque

By: Adam Gretz

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom hasn't appeared in a game for the team since he was elbowed in the head by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque earlier this month. It was a play that resulted in Bourque earning a five-game suspension from the NHL, and had some of the Capitals, including forward Troy Brouwer, lamenting the fact they weren't going to play another game against Bourque and the Flames this season.

That all changed, of course, when Bourque was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens last Thursday in the trade that sent Mike Cammalleri back to Calgary.

And which team are the Capitals visiting on Wednesday night? You guessed it, Rene Bourque and the Canadiens.

Not surprisingly, John Erskine, perhaps the Capitals' most willing fighter, is expected to be in the lineup, and some fireworks are expected. It's pretty much a given that somebody is going to challenge Bourque, even if the Capitals are downplaying it and talking about how the two points are the important thing (and, truth be told, they are the most important thing for the Capitals right now).

“For us to say we're going go out there and take liberties at him or something like that, probably not," said forward Joel Ward, via Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times. "I think we'll definitely be playing hard for sure. I'm sure guys are going to be playing pretty hard, especially against him and let him know that what he did we thought was a pretty cheap shot.”

With all of that in mind, the folks at Capitals Blog Russian Machine Never Breaks have their own idea as to how tonight's game is going to play out ... if it were a version of the classic Nintendo game, Mike Tyson's Punch Out.



(H/T Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Rene Bourque suspended 5 games
Bourque traded to Montreal for Mike Cammalleri

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com