“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.
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.