Friday, March 9, 2007

Oh Captain my Captain!

Once again, the Caps have a tough game against an opponent fighting for their playoff lives. Unlike the last few games, they will have some semblance of a healthy lineup, with Captain Clark and Gordo set to return from injury. And although Coach Hanlon seems intent to play Clark on the checking line, I doubt we'll see that setup once Clark regains game shape. I don't think he can keep Ovechkin and Semin on the same line for long, for a variety of reasons.

First, both Semin and Ovechkin like to have the puck on their sticks. Their styles of play are not particularly complimentary. Unless they start playing the game with two pucks, neither player will get as much time holding the puck as he wants (and deserves). Clark's physicality and willingness to give the puck to the Russian Machine whenever possible, then attack the net looking for a rebound or deflection makes for a much better fit than Semin's slick stickhandling and shooting.

Second, the first line needs a banger. While Ovechkin certainly hits with aplomb, he needs someone to get in front of the net and do the dirty work. Semin is not that kind of player, nor should he be asked to be. Clark is the very definition of a power forward. He forces teams to account for his presence down low, which frees up space for Ovie to maneuver into a prime scoring area. While teams certainly can't forget about Semin, he doesn't make forays into high traffic areas enough to be useful in that regard.

Finally, the Caps need some semblance of balance in their lineup. In order to have two threatening lines, Semin and Ovechkin need to split up. Having one on each line limits the ability of an opposing coach to match both players with their best defensive players.

That said, Semin and Ovie will probably combine for 8 points tonight, making me look like an absolute idiot.

Game time is 7 o'clock at the V.

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