Onus on McPhee to Correct Caps Issues

November 19, 2011 | Ed Frankovic


The Washington Capitals went into Toronto to face a depleted Maple Leafs club on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday looking to snap a three game losing streak and they were blasted, 7-1, in what was clearly their worst performance of the season. Caps killer Joffrey Lupul had a goal and three assists and Phil Kessel also potted one and added a helper. Jonas Gustavsson made 40 saves for Toronto but by the time he needed to make them his team was already comfortably ahead. Washington has now lost four straight contests and is 10-7-1 overall after starting with seven straight wins.

Rather than do a detailed look at this game like I normally do, tonight I am going to focus on the big issues facing this team:

– We will address the problems on the blue line next, but the effort hasn’t been there the last two games and has been missing in noticeable stretches all season. To me the first order of business for General Manager George McPhee is to sit down with head coach Bruce Boudreau and team captain Alexander Ovechkin to have a “clear the air” meeting because it looks like the entire hockey team is not listening to either one of its’ leaders right now. Boudreau’s constant line shuffling is not getting results and when the team captain is not giving 100% every shift the rest of the guys will start to take them off at some point, too. This team looks rudderless right now and if there is any strife in the locker room or between coaches and players it needs to be worked out, pronto. A Leafs squad that had several AHLers on it made a team some have picked to go to the Stanley Cup Finals look like the 1974-75 Caps. The horrible play on this recent road trip has to be a major concern.

– I know I’ve written several times that the Mike Green injury is a big blow to this Capitals team but you can’t put all of the their problems on one player. #52 is the best d-man on the Caps, he stabilizes the blue line and they are 8-0 with him in the lineup. However, when he went out last February the Caps played great hockey down the stretch (16-3-1) and overtook several teams to capture the Eastern Conference #1 seed. So what has gone so wrong this season that they can’t overcome the absence of the One Man Breakout? In the playoffs against Tampa when both Green and Dennis Wideman were out, the Lightning used their speed to go by some of the slower Capitals defensemen. Right now teams are taking advantage of Jeff Schultz, Roman Hamrlik, and to a lesser degree John Erskine. Schultz may have hit rock bottom in this game tonight with a horrible giveaway that started the whole debacle. Wideman is not playing like he did before his awful hip injury last spring and Karl Alzner has been the only defensemen who is performing above expectations. Boudreau did make a good move putting John Carlson back with Alzner tonight because #74 had his best game in awhile, but that just left an awful pairing of Hamrlik and Schultz, which Toronto coach Ron Wilson took advantage of fully.

– Special teams have just been atrocious during this bad stretch, especially the power play. There is far too much overhandling and passing of the puck and not enough shots on goal with traffic. The coaching staff needs to put guys out there who will simplify their game and outwork the opponent. I don’t think a guy like Alexander Semin fits that bill right now. The penalty kill has regressed primarily because of the poor play by the defensemen but the forwards aren’t doing their part either. On the Leafs sixth goal tonight Nicklas Backstrom did a super job of screening Michal Neuvirth (who was in the game because the team stunk in front of #1 goalie Tomas Vokoun early on).

– Overall, there is so much talent on this team that something is clearly wrong. The coaches and players don’t appear to be on the same page. McPhee has put together, on paper, what looks to be the best team he’s had in several years but the sum of the parts is far less than the whole right now. It is his job to find out where the problems are and correct them.

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Jeff Says:

    Ed, I couldn’t agree more. This team is playing some of the sloppiest hockey I’ve seen them play in a long time. You don’t even have the confidence they can come back from a deficit like you used to. The blue line is terrible without Green. Schultz is awful. OV doesn’t look like the same dominating player and Semin is so lazy we probably couldn’t get much for him in a trade. Do you see GMGM making a coaching change mid season? Gabby looks like he’s lost the team. thanks….Keep up the great blogs!

    (Note from Ed: I don’t think a coaching change happens right now, it is only November. Let’s have this meeting & see how the next 20 games play out. Thanks for the nice comments.)

  2. Over_head (Rob) Says:

    I agree Ed, something needs to be done. Ovechkin is playing long stretches of games in which it seems he puts in zero effort. Bruce is changing lines and pairings so often guys cannot get use to playing together. I believe the constant flip flopping of players has caused some of the confusion and lack of structure in the defensive zone.

  3. David Manzo Says:

    Ok this is early in the Caps season and while the play has been sloppy at best the Caps are still in a good spot early in the year. If we all look back last year the Caps lost 9 in a row and it looked really bleak for them headed to the Winter Classic. They turned it around down the stretch and the rest is history. While i admit there is some major issues right now with this team i dont think we can hit the panic fire the coach button yet. While i do believe that BB is part of the problem and has lost a little control you cant just can him 20 games in and think someone comes in waves a magic wand and all is better with the Caps. I think the Caps need to go with the line pairings that have always worked for them and stop trying over complicate the game of hockey like they are. Yes without Green the Caps are lacking on defense and the PP but have we all forgotten that Wideman was brought in as a helper to Green in that role and has failed all around this year at that job. We have all seen the Caps go through slumps like this and when they turn around and rip off 9 straight wins we will all forget about it again. Still too early in the season to hit the panic button but can surely be worried at the moment.

  4. McEvechkin Says:

    Nicely put Ed You make some very great points. I just wonder if some of this has to do with this new system. I mean they go on a tear and then they slump. The Caps have so much fire power ,why not use it like they used too. Sure they let in 4 or 5 goals per game but they would score 6 or 7. It was exciting to watch. Make some tweaks with the defensive zone but let the offense explode. That’s their forte and that’s why they were brought in and drafted in the first place. They developed into these offensive forces, made the NHL, they were drafted very early because of their talent and now they can’t use it. I’m baffled. Correct me if I’m wrong, love your post.

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