Friday, November 30, 2007

Everything old is new again

More specifically, the NHL schedule for next year will ditch the current format and return to its pre-lockout roots. The division games will be reduced from 8 per team to 6, which means every NHL team will play every other team at least once a year. Which is how it should be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Two Wins Does Not a Day Off Make

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Deuce:

Well, that didn't take long, did it? After putting in two good efforts against two strong teams, New Caps bench boss Bruce Beaudreau gave the team the day off on Sunday. The result: The Caps apparently forgot how to try again.

Last night, the Caps put forth another stinker, a lackluster effort on national TV. Once again, The Russian Machine was the only one who appeared to care out there. Particularly stinky were Alex Semin, back from a 17-game absence (with a game or two in between), Michael Nylander, and Tomas Fleischman. Nylander and Fleischman should both be credited with assists on the Sabres second and third goals, since their horrible giveaways directly contributed to Buffalo scores. I like Nylander a lot, and he is a wizard in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick, but when he has an off game, he REALLY has an off game.

The rest of the Caps looked like they have all season, tentative, slow, and weak. The lack of a bruiser on defense who can actually move his feet (sorry, Erskine) is really starting to get old. In fact, I'm afraid our father, Original Six, is going to burst a blood vessel in his head if the D don't start hitting out there.

The Sabres forwards (and every other team's for that matter) fly around in the Caps' zone all game, trying spin-a-ramas and behind the back passes and all manner of things they would NEVER try against, say, the NJ defense. Somebody, at some point, has just got to tattoo someone out there. Also, could somebody tell Morrison and company that when somebody slashes Olie, you are allowed to shove them, push them, give them a face-wash, SOMETHING for crying out loud?! Anyway, on to the game analysis, depressing as that may be.

Going in to the game, I told Grumpy 3 that the speedy Sabres forwards would give our D fits, and that we would have a tough time beating Buffalo with all the speed they brought to bear. Well, they were faster, and we didn't hit them, but it was actually the Caps, not the Sabres, who killed the Caps last night. If not for the two egregious turnovers mentioned earlier, we might have been in this game until the end. Miller made a couple of great saves against the Russian Machine, and Nylander again missed a wide-open net. But what was most noteable last night was the lack of effort on the Capitals' part again.

I hope Bruce bag-skates them today until they puke. Somebody needs to motivate these guys. Before it kills our father.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Notes on the beggining of the Boudreau era

Not a bad way to start an NHL coaching career, eh? First, Coach Boudreau leads the Caps to an overtime victory in Philly (snapping a 5 game losing streak), then another win over Carolina at home. Since it's nearly impossible for a coach to drastically change a team's philosophy in only a couple days, let's look at the simple changes he's made to the Capitals gameplan that seem to have reinvigorated the team.

First, Boudreau has abandoned the concept of having two balanced power play lines and has instead stacked his first line with the best available talent. Playing Backstrom, Nylander, and Ovechkin at forward and Tom Poti and Mike Green on defense, the Caps power play unit has managed to pot 4 power play goals in two games. Even better, they've actually been goals created by the entire power play unit, not just individual brilliance from the Russian Machine as had been the case for the past couple seasons.

It's amazing to see how much more puck and player movement the Caps have had on the power play. With two outstanding setup men and the league's premier finisher down low, defenses have been forced to collapse on the forwards, and with Mike Green given the, ahem, green light to attack the weak side the Caps have looked actually looked like the talented offensive team they are. Two outstanding passes from our Swedish centers resulted in two goals by Green, and the Caps power play is back from the dead.

Second, Coach Boudreau has focused on maintaining an aggressive forecheck system instead of sitting back and allowing opposing teams to build up steam headed into the neutral zone. Not only has this made it more difficult for teams to start their attack, it's also resulted in many more opposition turnovers in the neutral zone and the Caps offensive zone, which has lead to the Caps having to cover much less ice in order to generate an attack.

While it's tough to say whether the Caps can sieze on this newfound momentum and claw their way back into the playoff picture, one thing is for sure. The Caps have become a much more fun team to watch, and a much less fun team to play against.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hanlon let go

Per the Caps, Glen Hanlon has been relieved of his coaching duties and replaced on an interim basis by former Hershey Bears head coach Bruce Boudreau. The move was not unexpected considering the Capitals are off to their worst start in over 25 years. However, Hanlon's tenure in Washington should not be judged based solely on this year's merits.

Glen Hanlon lead a team with a pittance of NHL caliber talent for two seasons, and for the entirety of those two seasons we almost never saw a team that gave less than everything it had. I don't think it's overreaching to say that the Capitals overachieved for those two seasons, and their coach's optimism, patience and understanding were all major reasons for that.

Unfortunately, most coaches in the NHL are not measured on what they do for young teams or how they teach young players to grow into NHL regulars, but on their records. As the team matured and new talent was added, Coach Hanlon eventually had to be measured by the standards of other coaches: wins and losses. But let us not forget that Glen Hanlon was the right coach for the Washington Capitals for two seasons. He should be commended for the job he did with the organization during that time.

Now it's time to move in another direction. So thank you Coach Hanlon for the job that you did in the previous two years. Caps fans will not forget you for it.

Now a new era begins. While it's far too early to say whether the Boudreau experiment will last past this season, it's clear that it was time for a change. Welcome Coach Boudreau.

And lets go Caps.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More on the offensive production woes

Unfortunately, the offense isn't as bad as it looks on paper. It's worse. Lets break down the list of goaltenders the Caps have faced this year and the result:

Opponent - Result - Goals sc0red - goals against - goaltender - (b) = backup
atl - w 3-1 goaltender: Lehtonen
car - w 2-0 Grahame (b)
nyi - w 2-1 Dipietro
nyr - l 1-8 Lundqvist
buf - l 3-7 Miller
nyi - l 2-5 DiPietro
pit - l 1-2 Fleury
tam - w 5-3 Denis (b)
van - l 2-3 Luongo
stl - l 3-4 Legace
tor - w 7-1 Toskala/Raycroft
nyr - l 0-2 Lundqvist (SO)
phi - l 2-3 Nittymaki (b)
car - l 0-5 Ward (SO)
atl - otl 1-2 Pavelec (b)
ott - w 4-1 Emery (b)
tam - l 2-5 Holmqvist
fla - l 1-2 Vokoun
tam - l 2-5 Holmqvist
fla - l 3-4 Vokoun

Of the Caps 6 wins, a full half have come against goaltenders that are not currently considered starters for their respective teams. At this point, the "we ran into a hot goaltender" excuse is getting as played out as it was in the mid 80s. The Caps barely hold a winning percentage against the league's second tier goaltenders (3-2). It has to be said... it's not the goaltenders, it's the offensive system (or lack thereof).

Tonight, the Caps have a chance to start turning things around against the Thrashers. If the team can't claw out a win on home ice tonight, there may be some folks who get much longer than expected stays at home after the holiday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

So Long, Sudsy

Per the horse's mouth, the Capitals have traded Brian "Granite Chin" Sutherby to Anaheim for a second round pick in the 2009 entry draft.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Welcome to Lottery City

Ladies and gentlemen, the Deuce:

Early this morning, J.P. of Japers had his post-game offering. Just one mistake, he had the score 3-2. Wishful thinking, J.P. You're giving the Caps' offense WAY more credit than they deserve. TWO whole goals in one game?! Come on, that's expecting an awful lot. Last night, like this whole season, was atrocious. I wanted to throw up, in part because I knew I'd be reading the same ridiculous, "we're getting our chances, the puck's just not bouncing our way" quotes again today. Good teams make their own bounces. Of course, we are nowhere NEAR a good team right now. In fact, we're bad. Really bad. Has the Peerless Prognosticator upped the Playoff Threat Advisory to RED yet? If not, he should.

There are so many bad qualities about this team right now that it would take me all morning to focus on all of them. Bad line combinations, bad matchups, bad in-game adjustments, poor effort, bad giveaways, atrocious power play, bad penalty killing, bad offense -- just BAD. And of course, the most frustrating part of it all is that we as Caps fans just KNOW this team is better than this, much better (of course, we're the only ones who think this right now). Anyway, before I go through the litany of woes, I'll just look at one of the worst aspects of the Caps offense this year (there will be time to go through another after tonight's thrashing at the hands of the white-hot Lightning): The "Power" Play:

First, let's look at the personnel we could throw out there together (and no Glen Hanlon, I will not include Donald Brashear or Joe Motzko as possibilities):

Ovechkin, Clark, Nylander, Backstrom, Poti, Green. There are six guys to choose from who could legitimately play on the first power play for most teams. I won't include fringe PP-types like Pettinger and/or Flash, because they haven't proven themselves yet in that capacity. Now with those six players to choose from (and you can take out Clark if you want because of all the games he missed with injuries), shouldn't the Caps really be better on the PP than 15.0%? I think so. The Caps have scored 12 PPGs in 18 games so far -- pretty bad. It's even worse when you consider that five of those tallies have come from Ovechkin -- and at least 3 of them were individual efforts that in no way reflected a nicely set up passing play resulting in a PPG (if I remember correctly, two have come on rapid fire wristers off the faceoff, and one came where he dangled his way down the left side, cut into the middle around the defenseman, and scored on the rush). So that reduces the true PPGs from 12 to 9. So basically, without OV's great individual efforts, our PP would be second worst in the league, second only to the woeful Edmonton Oilers power play which has tallied only SEVEN times this season. But I can undertstand EDM's woes: Souray is injured, and the rest of their PP consists of Shawn Horcoff, Rafi Torres, Dustin Penner, Joni Pitkanen, and Dick Tarnstrom. Yikes. So as you can see, there is absolutely NO excuse for the Caps' players listed above to be producing at the level of EDM's PP, which is essentially what they are doing.

So what's the problem? Well, as I've detailed before, the first problem is that Hanlon got way too cute at the beginning of the season, and tried to have TWO good PP units when he really should have been focusing on just one. The exact same mistake he made last year. The result -- you had the evil Victor Kozlov playing with OV and Clark, and Poti and heaven-only-knows who else manning the point. The problem -- those guys couldn't maintain possession of the puck down low. The second unit was Backstrom, Nylander, and Pettinger playing with, gasp, Pothier and Green up top. Not surprisingly, Nylander, a puck possession and passing specialist, leads the team with 8 power play points (3 PPGs, 5 PPAs). In other words, if Nylander and OV ain't on the ice, don't even bother watching! After a few games of this two-headed monster, I was begging Hanlon to put OV and Nylander together. But he steadfastly refused until just three games ago -- against Carolina. Just before that game, I asked Mike Vogel why Hanlon wouldn't put OV and Nyls together. Here was his response:

Well, they tried it last night. I am one who believes if it’s going to work and work well in the long run that 8 and 92 are going to need some practice time together. Anyone who has watched Nylander play has to know that he is not the easiest guy in the world to play with. As to why they hadn’t tried it before, two reasons. One, they truly believe that the best chemistry combos are with 8 and 25 and 92 and 28. And second, I think they believe the resulting line combos make the team a bit weaker defensively."

Fair enough. But when Semin went down, it should have been obvious to Hanlon that he needed to play his best players together. That has only just started to happen. And I, for one, don't think Nylander would be that hard to play with. Just go to the net and put your stick on the ice -- he'll get the puck to you in great scoring position.

Back to the PP. So the two PP idea didn't work out. The first line didn't work the puck well down low -- in part because of the Caps' D-men's total inability to put a puck anywhere in the vicinity of the net (Pothier). Because nobody feared a big blast nice and low and on net from the point, they cheated down on Ovechkin, knowing he was the only real threat on the "first" power play (I know, you're saying "What? They weren't afraid of Kozlov?) So, about eight games too late, Hanlon adjusted by putting OV on the point. Not a terrible decision -- now teams have to cheat out high, opening space for the other guys to work down low. He also moved Nylander to the first PP. The only problem -- now there's no finisher to bury Nylander's nice thread-the-needle passes.

The Deuces's solution -- Nylander, Clark, and Ovechkin down low -- this allows Clark and OV to win loose pucks, and Nylander to control the play and look for any opening to split the box and hit OV for a one-timer. Poti and Green up high. And Tom, for crying-out-loud, shoot the frikkin' puck every once in a while. Don't get cute -- just crush it. You're supposed to have a bomb from up there, make teams fear it. If not, we'll just call up Godfrey. At least three times last night I watched Poti pass up a good shot opportunity from the point because it wasn't perfect. Who cares? Put it on net, and Clark and OV will do the rest.

So there you have it, the solution to all our power play woes, and the ticket out of Lottery City. Maybe.

And, oh yeah, here are Original Six's words of wisdom on last night's game: "The season is not over however I think that it may be time to look at hiring a new coach that will light a fire under some player’s butts. I love Glen Hanlon but it is now obvious that he cannot motivate these players. Is Mike Keenan still alive?"


Friday, November 9, 2007

Raise your hand if you saw THAT coming

Now allow me to call all of you with your hands raised liars. What an impressive 4-1 victory over the artists formerly known as the hottest team in the league. The Caps put together one of their better overall games of the year and, thanks to the brilliant goaltending of Olie Kolzig, dominated the Senators for all three periods. The Senators faithful sounded much more like a crowd of 8,000 than a packed house of over 18,000.

It looked to be all doom and gloom for the Caps in the second with the score knotted at 0 when Jeff Shultz and Tom Poti were whistled for minor infractions within a minute of one another. On the ensuing penalty kill, Dave Steckel broke his stick, and Caps fans everywhere waited for the hammer to fall... and waited... and waited... and nothing happened. Olie Kolzig played like a man possessed, the defense held, and the Caps were able to get a stoppage of play. Glen Hanlon wisely spent a timeout to rest his weary penalty killers, who responded by snuffing out the rest of the Ottawa penalty. If the Caps are able to reel off a few wins and get themselves out of the cellar, that penalty kill will be pointed to as the turning point in this young season.

A little more than halfway through the second, someone finally let Viktor Kozlov know the season had started, and he responded with an impressive effort, scoring once on a great individual effort and setting up two more Caps tallies on his way to being named the number one star of the night. Also notable was Nicklas Backstrom potting is first NHL goal, and the Russian Machine sealing the victory with a pretty delayed snapper late in the third.

The Caps need to carry all the momentum they can muster into Saturday's tilt against Tampa, where the Caps look to break out from the bottom of the standings and start the rise to the middle of the pack. Tampa has yet to win on the road, and the Caps will have had a couple days to soak in the glory of this victory and rest up for the game. All signs point towards a hard fought Caps victory, as long as someone can keep Kozlov awake during the game.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Uh oh...

While we'd love to be optomistic about tonight's faceoff with the Senators, it's very, very difficult to see anything but another Carolina-style whuppin coming. The Caps are sliding dangerously close to irrelevance, having won only 2 of their last 10 games. The Senators, meanwhile, have won 9 of their last 10 and are 13-1 overall. They've mowed down the opposition, racking up goals to the tune of 3 1/2 a game.

The one place to find solace? The Caps beat Toronto by a larger margin (6 goals) than Ottawa (4) in their last meeting. Hey, you gotta find SOMETHING positive in there.

The Caps clearly need a win, but just as important, they need a breakthrough game on the scoresheet. While I'm no fan of moral victories, a 5-4 loss to the league's best team would be something to build on going into this weekend's matchup with Tampa. But in order for that to happen, the Caps need to do the little things that they have been missing.

On the power play, the Caps need to abandon the whole "Holmstrom-like" concept of planting someone in front of the net at all times. A strategically timed skater moving across the goaltender's field of view is just as valuable as a flat footed player in front, and said player is much less likely to be killed by an Ovechkin one timer. So Glen, please stop trying to murder your players by setting stationary screens in front of the net when you KNOW your snipers pick top corners, and do it at high velocity. At this rate, if a change isn't made every player on the roster will be knocked out by an OV slapper by the end of the season.

At even strength, the Capitals absolutely must play physical hockey in all three ends. To paraphrase the great Herb Brooks, the Caps are not talented enough to win on talent alone. The Caps need to grind against skill teams (Ottawa, Carolina, Tampa), play with skill against grind teams (New Jersey, Vancouver), and they've done precious little of either as of late.

Third, to make this even a remotely close game, Olie Kolzig needs to channel a performance from the 1998 playoff run and frustrate the Senators snipers early. If he can hold the score to 1 or 2 goals in the first two periods, the Caps have a chance. If not....

Despite how dire the situation looks, the Caps don't need a win tonight to keep their hopes alive. What they need is a strong performance heading into Saturday's Southeast Division showdown with Tampa, which IS a make or break game for them. I expect a gritty performance, and maybe an OT point tonight.

Caps 4, Sens 5 (OT).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Join The Deuce's Boycott

The Deuce is ticked. The Deuce was looking forward to watching The Russian Machine dominate Kovalchuk tonight, and in the process forgetting about that-which-need-not-ever-be-mentioned-again that-happened-last-night. But then, thanks to J.P., the Deuce discovered the following:

"Because the NHL has decided to give the Versus Network exclusive rights to some Monday and Tuesday night telecasts, Tuesday’s game from Atlanta will not be telecast in the Washington or Atlanta areas. Instead, viewers can watch the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Versus."

Now the Deuce is pissed. I have to watch two teams I can't stand rather than watching the Caps try to finally break out of this horrible slump. And you just KNOW now that I can't watch, OV will have four goals, three set up on beautiful passes by Nylander. Damn you Versus. Damn you to hell. Why couldn't you black out LAST night's game? Now there's one I wouldn't have minded. Anyway, The Deuce encourages everyone to join him in a boycott of tonights NYC Suckfest. We may not be able to watch the Caps, but the least we can do is refuse to watch Jagr and Witt.


Update: Looks like we're going to miss Chris Bourque's NHL thanks to the "exclusivity agreement." This sucks.

Caps Run Into Juggernaut; Canes 5, Caps 0

Ladies and gentlemen, the Deuce:

Well, that was fun, wasn't it. Last night a desperate Glen Hanlon finally did what Caps fans have been begging for for weeks now and the result was -- a total domination at the hands of the Hurricanes. Make no mistake about it, the Caps got absolutely destroyed last night. Anyone who watched saw a thorough domination by what, at this point at least, appears to be one of the best teams in the league this year. Right now, the Canes are playing like the team that won the Cup two years ago. And the hapless Caps simply could not compete. So enough of that. Let's try and analyze what we can from last night's debacle.

1) Glen Hanlon finally gave in and played OV with Nylander and Backstrom. And while no result from last night can be characterized as "good," there are two positive takeaways here: the first is that for most of the time they were together, they controlled the play and got good scoring chances -- it's just that nothing was going to get by Ward last night. The second is that we now know that Hanlon is desperate enough to try this, so we should be able to see more if it. I honestly think if this line plays together against most teams in the league, they're good for at least 2 goals a game.

2) Where is the fire? Why aren't Sutherby, Bradley, and Laich playing like their jobs depend on every shift (because they do). We're down four and five zip, and these guys aren't hitting out there. (Although in their defense, it may be that they simply couldn't catch the blazing fast Canes).

3) What happened to the tightened standards and the "New NHL" last night. Every time the Caps would try to skate the puck up ice last night, they got whacked, not just hooked, but whacked repeatedly on the stick and forearm by the Canes. The Russian Machine especially is going to have to spend all day with his arms in a tub full of ice water. Not saying it would have made a difference last night, because nothing would have, but come on ref, throw us a freakin bone here, will ya? In one eggregious example Staal just about took Oveckin's arm of with two two-handers in a row, causing OV to lose control of the puck and resulting in an offside call. And no penalty. Oh well.

4) Is it just me, or was that a reputation call on Brashear last night? Yes, he hit the guy into the boards. This is hockey, isn't it? And that defenseman already had his face next to the glass, since he was turning away from another Cap (Laich?) who tried to hit him. Five and a game? Only if your name is Brashear (or Pronger)? It seems like Brash gets more than his share of these types of calls. Let's just say I think the refs tend to focus on him when he's out there. And we can't afford any "extra" scrutiny from the officials.

5) The best part of last night's game? That the Caps play again today, so we can forget about it fast. I expect a much better game against Atlanta, since the Russian Machine always gets up to play against another Russian superstar, and Atlanta is not nearly the team Carolina has been in its last 8 games. Too bad Thrasher Killer Semin won't be in the lineup, since he's always good for two or three against ATL.

BOLD PREDICTION: Caps Right the Ship. Caps 5, Thrash 3. Nylander and Ovechkin combine for 3 goals and 6 points. Kovalchuk only nets 2.*

* - all of this goes out the window if Hanlon abandons the Nylchkinstrom Line. Or at least the Nyl-chkin part of it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A tale of two (Southeast) cities

Since shutting out the Hurricanes in their first meeting of the season, Carolina and Washington have been teams headed in opposite directions. Carolina has been inconsistent, but still able to post a respectable 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games, while the Caps have gone a pathetic 2-8-0. Carolina is scoring at a league leading pace (3.79 goals per game) while the Caps have scored a paltry 2.53 goals per game. Carolina sits first in the Southeast division with 19 points, while the Caps sit tied for last with 10.

The Caps have already been bitten hard by the injury bug, with Tom Poti, Alexander Semin, and Chris Clark all missing chunks of the schedule. While Poti may play tonight, neither Semin nor Clark will be available.

So how do the Caps right the ship against Carolina, and gain some momentum going into a stretch of 11 in-division games out of 14? While there are many areas that need improvement, there are three that come to mind:

1. More physical play from the top 2 lines. The Caps may not be the group of rough and tumble grinders from last season, but they need to play more like they are. While nobody expects Nylander or Backstrom to level anyone, every player on the Caps roster needs to rededicate themselves to playing the body. I'm not asking for devastating open ice hits like the one Ovechkin laid on Staal last time the two teams met, but is it too much to ask for Viktor Kozlov to actually lay his gigantic frame into an opposing player rather than meekly swiping a poke check attempt at them?

2. More movement on the power play. Since Hanlon has finally decided to throw all his best offensive players on the ice at once, it would be nice to see them create some confusion among the defenders by having the players shift their positions on the ice, rather than simply passing around the defensive box for a minute looking for a clean shot. The way to create shooting lanes is to draw defenders away from their assigned areas, which can only be done by moving forwards across shooting lanes while the puck is being moved. Doing so has several positive effects. First, it creates a momentary screen, so the goaltender temporarily loses sight of the puck. Second, it either forces a defender out of position if one wing is overloaded or leaves an open man in the position the moving player occupies. The point man on that side then has an option to either skate the puck at goal (if the defender follows the moving forward), shooting through the screen, or passing to the open man at the back post (if the defender does not break formation and follow his man). Any way you slice it, the offense has many more options than just passing around the defensive box. Movement on the power play creates offense. Right now the Caps are standing still.

3. Move Kolzov to the wing and move Nylander to the first line. At this point there is absolutely no excuse not to play your best set up man with your best shooter. Furthermore, chemistry with Ovechkin or no, Kozlov has looked absolutely atrocious his last few outings, and something needs to change. If lining Nylander up with the Russian Machine seemed like a no-brainer at the start of the season, it is even more so now with the Caps struggling to find their way on offense. And the Caps have enough natural centers on the roster to allow Nick Backstrom to continue to play the wing without disrupting the entire lineup if they still feel he's not ready to take on the position. (Never thought I'd be typing that sentence a year ago)

4. Get Mike Green shifts with the first line. Right now Greener is the 4th best offensive player in the lineup (behind OV, Nylander and Backstrom). While he still holds the puck too long and is a genuine heart attack waiting to happen in his own zone, he has the talent to draw defending players to him on a rush, freeing up Ovechkin from the constant double teaming he receives and allowing him to take on defenders one on one after a pass. And any time the Russian Machine is one on one with anybody in the league, it's a good thing for the Caps.

So there we have it. Four ways to improve the Caps chances as they head into a stretch of hockey that may well define their season. Lets hope that Hanlon makes at least some of those adjustments and the Caps right the ship. I don't even want to think about what might happen to the Caps season if he doesn't.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Caps Continue to Forget About Offense: Rangers 2, Caps 0

Ladies and gentlemen, the Deuce:

Anyone who watched the game last night should have known we were in trouble halfway through the first period when we were outshooting the Rangers 8-0, and had 0 goals. You could see Lundqvist starting to find that "zone" that means nothing short of a screened shot or a rebound was getting by him. And you could also see it on the Caps' faces (see, Kozlov, Victor; Nylander, Michael). Of course, there is one thing that can put a puck past even the hottest of goalies: A great first line.

Now I know, I know, the Caps were severly depleted yesterday, missing Chris Clark and Ankle Semin and Groin Poti and blah blah blah and The Donald was double shifting last night and so on. You know when is a good time to just say, "screw it," and throw out your best players together? Um, when there are no other options.

I've said it before and I'll say it until Hanlon or somebody out there listens. A great 1st line in the NHL can get you 3 goals a night. At least. And last night, Ovechkin-Nylander-Kozlov/Backstrom would have been nearly unstoppable. It bears repeating: Nobody in the NHL can take the puck off Nylander's stick. They know it, and just back off him, giving him even more room to operate and look for a sweet pass. Now imagine that the other team has to worry about Ovechkin as well as Nylander (we don't know what this would look like because Hanlon hasn't put them on the ice together for a single even-strength shift this season). It would be awesome.

It's almost as if Hanlon knows this is what everyone wants to see, and is just resisting to be stubborn. Glen, we won't think any less of you as a coach if you recognize that Ovechkin-Kozlov was a mistake. In fact, it will mean you know how to make adjustments, which, I hear, is kind of important in an NHL coach. Let's look at the other teams that played last night:

OTT 6, ATL 4: Alfredsson had 2 G and 2 A, Heatley had 2 A, and Randy Robitaille, filling in for Spezza, had 2 G. On the other side, Kovalchuk had the hat trick and Hossa an assist.

DET 2, CGY 1: Shockingly, the Zetterberg/Datsyuk line combined for 4 points (2G, 2A) - on the other side, Tanguay had a goal, assist to Iginla.

STL 3, MIN 2: The big line of Tkachuk/Kariya/Boyes that killed the Caps came through with a goal for Tkachuk, assists to Kariya and Boyes, and on the other side, the big Gaborik/Demitra line got all the scoring for Min, with a goal and and assist each.

In Colorado, the big Crosby/Malkin line ended up with BOTH Pens goals, both by Crosby, assist to Malkin (now there's a coach who isn't afraid to put his best players together, EVEN THOUGH BOTH ARE CENTERS! Who cares??!! Put your superstars together, and nobody can stop them!). For COL, the Sakic/Smyth line (who by the way have been tearing up the league), finished with assists from both Sakic and Smyth.

In the Columbus/Anaheim game, everyone fell asleep. Columbus, which has no stars, finished with 20 shots and no goals in the shootout. Rob Neidermeyer scored with an assist from Pahlsson for ANA.

Nashville got two power play goals and points on all three goals came from four players: J.P. Dumont, Jason Arnott, David Legwand, and Martin Erat. Vancouver's big Sedin line was shut out.

MON: 5, PHI: 2: Koivu, Higgins, Kovalev, Latendresse get four of the five goals. For Philly, Upshall and Richards get the goals, with assists from Carter and Danielle Briere.

I think that's enough. As you can see, for almost all of these games, the star players scored most of the goals (no surprise there), but the great majority of those goals came from superstars playing TOGETHER - Heatley/Alfredsson/Robitaille; Zetterberg/Datsyuk/Holmstrom; Tkatchuk/Kariya/Boyes; Crosby/Malkin/Whoever, Sakic/Smyth/Whoever (ah, to be Whoever). So you're telling me that Ovechkin/Nylander/Whoever couldn't come up with two measley goals last night?! REALLY? Well, how about we test the hypothesis before we dismiss it Glen! I'm tired of this impotent offense. I'm tired of "spreading the (lack of) scoring around." I'm tired of "just wait until Semin gets back." I'm tired of playing Russians with Russians and Swedes with Swedes. STACK A FRIKKIN' LINE HANLON -- SEE WHAT HAPPENS. You just might like what you get. Especially when Semin and Clark are out, and you're playing Nylander with Brooks Frikkin Laich and/or The Donald. We are wasting Nylander's all-world talents. You don't think the Rangers would kill to have him back right now? Let's do something with him!