Thursday, December 4, 2008

Depleted D

If there was any question about how much the injuries on defense have affected the Capitals style of play, one need only look at the Caps game Tuesday night against the Panthers. Usually a team that plays a defense first, trapping style of play, the Panthers came out with an all out blitz of a forecheck, constantly pressuring the Caps defense for all three periods.

It paid off big time.

The Capitals simply don't have the bodies or talent to compete in the defensive end in their current form. The Caps defense without Tom Poti, Mike Green, Sergei Fedorov, and to a lesser extent Jeff Schultz and John Erskine is now a mirror of what it was during the Caps first post lockout season. Which is not good. At all.

The current defensive lineup doesn't feature a single defenseman that should be playing top 4 minutes in the NHL for any team. Uber prospect Karl Alzner is still adjusting to the NHL game, and needs more seasoning before he's ready to assume a role as a top tier defenseman. Milan Jurcina refuses to play the body unless it's away from the play for a penalty which renders him basically useless. Shoane Morrison gets outplayed and out muscled near the front of his own net on almost every play. And Lepisto, Helmer, and Sloan, with respect to the effort and determination they've shown, are third pairing defensemen at best.

For the Caps to be successful, they must keep the puck out of their own end as much as possible. And with Alexander Semin still injured, the burden for keeping puck possession falls to Michael Nylander and his line. The Caps first line has always been solid at controlling the play in their opponents' end as soon as they gain possession. For the Caps to take the burden off their crippled defense corps, the second line needs to be just as strong to give their defense the relief they so desperately need.

If the Caps top two lines can maintain possession and control the play and allow the defense to bend without breaking, they have a chance to beat the Islanders tonight. If not, it's going to be a long night.


Oh, and remember to skip lunch today so you can enjoy as many dollar dogs at the arena as possible. I'm thinking I can take down at least 5... blogger competitive eating contest, anyone?