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!


DMG said...

I think that if Clark and Semin are healthy it makes sense to skate Kozlov with OV and Nyalnder with Semin. That said, given that they're both out, I think you're right and the Caps ought to be skating Nylander with OV and Kozlov.

Part of what bothered me abot last night's game was the absence of a true checking line (i.e. Pettinger/Gordon/Laich). I guess since the Rangers have two scoring lines and the Caps did a pretty good job of containing them it wasn't a bad call thought. I guess I'm just married to the idea of a shutdown line.

DMG said...

I was mulling it over some more and had this thought:


Let's see the Flyer's less-than-stellar defense which will be missing Hatcher, Rathje and Jones stop that first line.

the deuce said...

I like your lines. I like any lines that put OV and Nyls together. I have a feeling that once they skate together once, they'll stay together. We'll all be saying, "why didn't we think of uniting the teams best playmaking center with the teams best scoring wing earlier?" Backsrom and Semin will make beautiful music together as well, I'm sure. As for you third, and, I assume "shutdown line," the Flyers are a LOT faster this year. I'm not sure Sutherby could keep up. But Gordo and Laich should make up for Sudsy's lack of footspeed.

Roger Padre said...

I have to agree with the Deuce. Nylander has shown himself to be one of the best puck control artists in the NHL, if not the best. The combination of Nylander and Ovechkin would be murderous on opponents, no matter who the right wing was. We can't get any worse than shut out! If Ovie gets set up nicely 15 times a game at least one or two will go in.

DMG said...

I wasn't really thinking in terms of a checking line b/c of the injuries and the fact that the Flyers have decent scoring depth so it might not be a good idea to focus on shutting down one line.

If I were focused on a 'shutdown' line I would have had Pettinger playing with Gordon and Laich. But to do that with the injuries the Caps have I'm not sure who I'd throw on the second line. It's already got Fleischmann on it and I'd like to have at least two players I think could do something.

I guess one option could be to put Steckel at center on that line, move Backstrom to LW, drop Pettinger to line 3 and have Sutherby center line 4?

In any case I'd like to have


As the top two were everyone healthy, provided Backs can play center. Since I'm not his coach and don't see him in practice and probably don't notice his play to the same degree they do I don't think I should speculate on whether he's ready for a full time center role yet. Of course were everyone healthy they could stick Clark and Koxlov with OV. You don't get the playmaker with OV but the three have chemistry and if Backs isn't ready to play center the only top-six calibre guys who are would be Kozlov and Nylander.

John said...

I'm picky. You forgot to list Nash in Columbus. I'd give him star status.

John said...

Oh, and I agree wholeheartedly.