Be Concerned, Be Very Concerned

“Questions begin to mount as Caps lose” Ed Frankovic exclaims in his WNST headline this morning. He’s so right. Again. Ed goes on to sagely point out that Claude Julien this week channeled his division bench rival Jacques Martin in strategy against the Caps: clog up the middle of the ice, allow a high volume of shots against your quality netminder, knowing that he’s going to get a good look at most of them, as the Caps are very much a perimeter hockey team, being content to blast away from the outside and not pay the price required to overcome a quality goalie and his committed teammates.

Sound familiar?

Seven games in and in all but one of them (New Jersey) the Caps have underwhelmed. Maybe they’re playing possum. Maybe they miss Mike Green that much. Or maybe, just maybe . . . George McPhee is savagely wrong, and it wasn’t merely a five-day anomaly last April that undid the Caps; maybe instead they’re a fundamentally flawed club as they’ve been assembled. They’ll outgun the majority of opponents they’ll face this regular season, but that means nothing in the big picture.

The center position right now is a royal mess. We’re as excited as anyone about the toolbox Marcus Johansson brings — and he was a lone bright light on Thursday night in Boston — but at an important position on an ostensibly contending club he’s engaged in on the job training. Necessarily. He has a grand total of one point in six hockey games, which isn’t so good if you’ve got him as a fantasy player. Explain to us please why he isn’t apprenticing in the American League? Caps’ brass articulated a conspicuous commitment to Johansson prior to his even taking Development Camp ice back in July. Apparently we’ll just have to live with his growing pains and wait to see if production eventually follows. But from where we sit the more experienced and productive center was jettisoned to Hershey by virtue of his optionable contract. Meanwhile, Nick Backstrom is AWOL; Tomas Fleischmann is what he’s always been in his pro career: quite impressive one night, quite invisible the next. The position, which was fairly identified as a vulnerability in the offseason, looks in disarray early on.

About Mike Green. We know better than to attempt to divine the actual extent of his shoulder injury. But it is a shoulder injury, and thanks to Chris Pronger, Greener has a vulnerability there. Stinger . . . slight separation . . . worse . . . who knows? But this finesse blueline can’t go long without him.

The Caps’ top line eventually will get its MoJo back, but while it’s absent, this perimeter hockey club will struggle.

This entry was posted in Boston Bruins, Bruce Boudreau, Marcus Johansson, Montreal Canadiens, National Hockey League, Tomas Fleischmann, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Be Concerned, Be Very Concerned

  1. Matt Barrett says:

    I’m not sure you rush to blame McPhee before taking a look at bruce. This team COULD potentially adjust it’s style if Bruce can demonstrate the necessary creativity. So far he hasn’t.

  2. jwh37 says:

    Ding Ding Ding. Matt Barrett has hit the nail on the head. Bruce is lacking any kind of creativity, and refuses to change a single thing about their approach to the games. The PP is horrid, and also lacking creativity. You were a welcome change over Hugs, Bruce, but you’ve served your purpose. Now, move on please.

  3. ken h says:

    time for bruce to move on…time for OV to get to what pays his bill….hockey enough partying he can do that after/if he wins a cup

  4. Eric says:

    The Caps look like a rebuilding Southeast Division team again.

  5. Randy says:

    Maybe Marcus is in the AHL right now because this year, our regular season is about grooming young players. Why not give him a healthy dose of NHL action, and then demote him if he is overwhelmed? I have a feeling we were concerned he would bolt back to sweden if we tried to send him to Hershey out of camp. And we are thin at scoring center, we need this guy to be an option to us.

  6. strungout says:

    Everyone realizes the team started 3-2-2 last season? Right?

  7. Sam says:

    Here are some suggestions for the Caps.

    1. Send MJ to Hershey and bring up MP.
    2. Take Ovechkin (and Green when he returns) off the PP, or at least off the point. Yes, Ovie is one of the best goal scorers but he isn’t Superman.
    3. Light a fire under Knuble. He hasn’t been his usual self lately.

  8. MP seems to possess an intangible that is seldom represented on any score sheet: things happen when he’s on the ice. The red lamp doesn’t light with every shift, but there is a high frequency of buzz about the opposition cage. And the Verizon Center crowd seemed to recognize this last season.

  9. @ Strungout, yes, we remember. Yet they also split the season series with Boston — each game won by the road team. Not so this year. Obviously we have a small sample-size of games thus far, and no dramatic conclusions need be drawn. But aspects of their play thus far are certainly worthy of some concern.

  10. @ RANDY: You’re right on the mark. I think MoJo is getting NHL time early, and will likely go back to Hershey at some point in exchange for the more proven Perreault.

  11. I have trouble with the “Fire Boudreau” chorus. I certainly didn’t hear any after the New Jersey game. C’mon folks, let’s have some perspective…it’s just seven games. If we get 20 games in and things haven’t clicked by then, I’ll get worries at that point.


    I agree with Dave that it’s too early to be chanting “Fire Boudreau”; but I am already sick of hearing “we faced another hot goaltender” as the excuse for losing a game. Adjustments have to be made and I’d like to see the Caps start using thier size as a physical element rather than relying on finesse to try and score goals.

    The Caps play some weaker teams over the next week, so they might get some wins and give us a false sense of security. Circle the first week of November on your calendar; I think it will be fair to give an evaluation of the status of the team and coaching staff once we’ve played consecutive games against Toronto, Boston, and Pilly.

  13. Tre Kronor says:

    The Caps and Boudreau’s system did not just underwhelm in last year’s playoffs – it underwhelemed in 08 and 09 – losing to the Flyers in seven, barely squeaking by a lame Rangers team and then collapsing against a much better defensive and disciplined squad in the Pens. The Bs exposed this system yet again and the Caps better lookout in their own division – Tampa Bay could overtake them this year (how many Cups did Yzerman win? how about GMGM and Boudreau?). Calling for Boudreau to change or go is not premature at all – it’s overdue.

  14. Alex says:

    From what I’ve heard one of the big reasons Johanssen’s up with the NHL team is because of his contract; if the Caps try to send him down to Hershey he has the option of voiding the contract and going back to Sweden (or at least he did at the beginning of the season). So I think the Caps have him up at the NHL level so that they maintain control over him rather than losing him back to Sweden.
    But that’s from the little that I’ve heard about that. The Caps are notoriously quiet about contracts, so I’m undoubtedly missing details.
    That’s just one of the issues the Caps have right now, but that’s one of the factors behind why they haven’t fixed the center situation.

  15. Geo says:

    I’d definitely like to see Matty P. in there. Clearly sometimes the energy just isn’t there so far, and that’s something he brings in spades.

    Every time I see an opposing player lingering in the slot without someone clearing them, or a D-man line-up that includes two rookies, Erskine and Sloan, I remember most of us fans clamoring for a shut-down and/or crease-clearing D-man, even just a decent journeyman D-man who could fill in effectively when the inevitable injuries come up.

    I’m not going to panic after 7 games, but it really seems like most of the things GMGM rolled the dice on are turning out snake eyes, other than Neuvy being terrific.

  16. Patrick says:

    I really think that some tweaks accompanied with patience will solve our problems. I think we need to give Marcus a chance to gel with Semin and Laich, but bring up Matty to trade off and on with him between second and third line duties (sit steckel??). I believe we need to get a smidge more physical in our own end. Poti is still not entirely recovered from injury and looks shakey yet, but soon should be. Carlson seems to be lacking jump right now, also.I agree that perimeter hockey is gutless flair and our boys had better buck-up and familiarize themselves with the blue paint or we will lose against many teams.

    I believe in Boudreau, I believe in GMGM, and I believe in every other part of this organization. We are on the edge of something special, we just need to step-up, and claim some real estate.
    That being said, I also believe that (rightfully or not)there will be some changes happen if the ship doesn’t right itself by December, given the lofty expectations and pressure.

  17. Pingback: Should Caps Fans Be Concerned? » capitalpowerplay

  18. ValleyCapsFan says:

    Hey folks, we’re not one-tenth through this season yet, so CHILL concerning all this team’s supposed shortcomings. As Strungout points out, the Caps were 3-2-2 out of the blocks last year. I remember Carolina playing some games against the Caps last year just like the Bruins did this week. How’d it work out for those guys over the season?
    And PLEASE drop the “fire Boudreau” talk. How quickly we forget the Hanlon era, and the other “Bruce” that preceeded him.

  19. amine b says:

    The caps are playing like the regular season doesn’t matter, which is exactly what every said after the playoff loss last year. They know the division is weak and they can turn it on when they need to. Even if we were last place in the SE in January, I still wouldn’t be concerned.
    It’s a long season, injuries happen, and why try 100% when everyone says it doesn’t matter?

  20. Randy W says:

    I’ve been kind of hoping (in a demented way) that the Caps will not have the best record in the league this year, and maybe not win the SE Div. They’ve done all that and it hasn’t meant a thing in the postseason. So, I hate to say I’m happy with where they are now, but struggle can be good if they use the season to figure out how to bang/grind it out in the playoffs, when there is NO open ice. Go Caps! From a 36 year fan.

  21. Dougeb says:

    Wait – let me get your genius. Boston and Montreal clog the middle, allow the Caps a bunch of shots, and the game turns on superior goaltending? You do have it partially correct.

    The Caps are playing lousy right now. The first line is struggling with their play and timing. It’s not time to be afraid. It’s time to relax, watch hockey and wait. Let’s have a look in April. We’ll start to learn about this team in the spring and not November.

    Here’s to hoping the struggles are soon over.

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