Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A positive from a negative

Pardon me while I wax existential... There was much good to come out of last night's loss to the Canadiens. Falling behind 3-0 in the first period may just have saved fans from a snore inducing home stretch, and the team may just have found their game again.

Since the Capitals were forced to abandon the neutral zone trap after an atrocious first period, they actually showed some signs of life in the offensive zone. They put strong pressure on the Habs defense, no small task considering the Canadiens have one of the better core defensive groups in the league. They played the body with aplomb, absolutely blowing Montreal's players off the puck. They actually looked competitive in the game. Two quick (and I mean blink and you missed 'em quick) goals by Jamie Heward brought the Caps within one, before their special teams play yet again let them down. True, one might argue that two goals from a defenseman and only one from a forward does not constitute turning a corner on their offensive woes, but the play of the team looked much stronger overall once they changed their style and forechecked hard.

I don't know know that there are words strong enough to describe how bad the power play is right now, so I'm going to the thesaurus. Here we go: putrid, bad, contaminated, corrupt, decayed, decomposed, fetid, foul, high, malodorous, moldered, nidorous, noisome, off, putrefied, rancid, rank, reeking, rotting, smelly, spoiled, stinking, strong, tainted, whiffy. Actually, those are pretty accurate descriptions (I especially like whiffy for some reason). And don't go talking about Semin scoring on the second half of the four minute minor at the end of the period. He would have scored the same goal five on five. It was pure individual brilliance, and had NOTHING to do with setting up a power play and working the puck to create a scoring chance. The Capitals need to hire an assistant to work with them on their power play, as it's become abundantly clear that the coaching staff as-is simply can't get the job done.

It was good to see Richard Zednik play yet another strong game. Hopefully the Caps will re-sign him in the coming days, or be able to do so in the offseason. The same cannot be said for Dainus Zubrus, whose play over the past month and a half has absolutely destroyed his trade value. He hasn't been able to score or set up his linemates, and he's missed several golden opportunities for cheap tap ins. Some of the blame certainly lies in the system the Caps played during that stretch, but if Zubrus were the number one center he fancies himself to be, he would have found a way to create offense regardless.

I can't see any team paying him number one center dollars this offseason (and the Caps would be insane to do so) or even looking at him as a rental at this point. Any second line center worth his salt could put up numbers similar to Zubrus' (20G, 32A, 52Pts, -15) playing with Alexander Ovechkin. Even his agent seems to recognize this, as he recently said "He has a lot more value than just what he does on the ice." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his play on it. The fact is, the "value" his agent talks about is to the Capitals and the Capitals alone. Other teams either have veteran leadership or could get it with a cheaper pickup than Dainus. If the Caps pay him anything near market value for a number one center, they'll be doing the team a disservice.


Update: Holy cow. Zubrus wants between three and a half to four mil a year for four years (scroll down to Tarik's comment). I've got two words for you. Dead. Meat.


Capital Fanatic said...

Yea that's way too much money for Zubrus. I have a feeling he'll be traded before the deadline. As far as the power play goes, can we decline them? That would be my advice.

Biff said...

I'm choosing to believe that the rash of penalties during the first four-minute double minor against Montreal were all intentional so as to do just that.