Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Trotz Appears to Inspire Marcus Johansson

Early signs are in that Washington Caps Coach Barry Trotz appears to inspire Marcus Johansson because he's producing more results this season than he ever has. He's 54th in the league in points, with 12 in 15 games this season, versus 121st last season. If Trotz can inspire Johansson to live up to his 1st round, 26th overall draft position expectations, the Caps will be better off. He's never played more confidently and it's great to watch him shoot more and get rewarded for it.

There were high expectations for Johansson when he was drafted. He was a fast and smooth skating player from the Swedish Elite League, a perfect finesse player in the eyes of former General Manager George McPhee, but not what the Caps needed. They had too much finesse and not enough grit.

The coaching merry-go-round from Bruce Boudreau to Dale Hunter to Adam Oates to Barry Trotz also hindered Johansson's development. None of them got through to him about how to compete in the playoffs or win board battles. Johansson's 11-points in 30 playoff games provides proof of that. But, this season offers hope that Trotz may be able to make Johansson the hockey player he was projected to be.

Let's hope that happens and he learns how to play in the playoffs, assuming the Caps make it. Tough call to make at this point.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Caps Burakovsky Fun to Watch

Andre Burakovsky, the 19-year old Caps rookie, may end up being a surprise gift to Caps fans from former General Manager George McPhee. The young Austrian plays the game with a composed sneakiness that makes him fun to watch. And, the amazing thing is that he's a left winger, not a center, but the Caps needed a center. They gave him the chance after trying him at the position during camp and preseason games. Good centers are gold in the NHL and if Burakovsky ends up being a good one, the Caps may be able to close their perpetual hole at second line center since Alex Ovechkin came to town.

In 9 games, Burakovsky collected 2G-6A-8P and was a plus-4. Not bad, even if the sample the size is small. It's early and the league hasn't had time to figure him out, but the 2013 first round draft pick, 23rd overall, is turning heads with his poise and plays like the one against Detroit where he exited the zone, pressured their  defense, got the puck to John Carlson for a pass to Troy Brouwer that ended up in the net.

Read more here.

Let's go Caps!

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Caps Ovie on Locker Room and Backie's 500th Point

Although the Caps played a flat game against the Edmonton Oilers, there are still positives signs from the team in the last several games, but Barry Trotz needs to get them back to playing like the first period against Montreal to start the season. Alex Ovechkin played a lackluster game in Edmonton, which typically means the Caps struggle. They lost 2-3, but still showed unbelievable cycling on the power play and forechecking, not typical strengths of this team.

Right now, I'm more interested in Ovie's quotes in recent interviews and Trotz's early assessments of his star winger than the Caps struggles these past two games. Those issues are surmountable. Watching the Caps play under an experienced NHL head coach is such an improvement over the last several seasons that I believe Trotz can right the ship when they start looking like last year's Caps.

Read more here.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Caps Play Under Trotz

After playing solid games against Montreal, a shootout loss, and Boston, a 4-0 win, the Caps showed bad signs of seasons past against the San Jose Sharks. They stopped moving their feet and their forechecking and board battles weren't as strong as their first two games. Barry Trotz has more work to do, but the reminder from the coaches to move their feet worked as they tied the game in the 3rd period on goals from Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer.

The Caps play under Trotz looks structured and plays to the strengths of his players. Seems simple, but it hasn't been the last few years in Washington. Some fans and commentators called the first period of hockey versus Montreal the best period of Caps hockey in years so, hopefully, there is more of that to come. They are an improved team.

The Washington Capitals go as long as their captain, Alex Ovechkin, is doing his thing. Ovie appears rejuvenated by the Trotz system, flying around, hitting again, and scoring both power play and even strength goals. He's scored 4 goals in 3 games. The goal against San Jose where Ovie dished to Fehr, who threaded it to Backie who dished it back to Ovie for a hidden blast that caught Niemi unaware was delightful to watch. He ended the game with 2G, 1A, 8 shots and 5 hits.

Read more here.

Let's go Caps.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Trotz Era Begins in Washington

The Caps first coach to come to Washington with NHL coaching experience since Ron Wilson in 1997, Barry Trotz, makes his debut as bench boss for the Capitals on Thursday.  He's already instilled subtle changes in the locker room that will be interesting to watch. A rope line around the Caps logo on the floor of the locker room, placed there so no one can walk on it. Corny, yes, but can the little things turn around the country club culture that started years ago?

Another change is the leadership group, consisting of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Brooks Orpik, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, John Carlson and Jason Chimera, that he uses to discuss the direction he wants to take the Caps.  This is an approach Trotz used in Nashville. Hopefully, the group will take the pressure off Ovie. Having Orpik helps with this, too.

Trotz starts his debut with the Caps lacking personnel for a key element of a winning hockey team, depth down the middle. The Caps don't have a second line center.  For those keeping score, this deficiency has hampered the Caps since Alex Ovechkin steamrolled onto the scene in 2005. Second line centers aren't easy to come by, particularly on the open market, so it's best to develop players for that position.  Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are both playing center with some skill, but Burakovsky is a rookie winger, not center, and Kuznetsov played wing his last couple of years in Russia and is awful on face offs, 18.5% in his 27 tries last season. That weakness continues.

Read more here.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Caps MacLellan Era Starts by Adding Ex-Penguin Defensemen


Rookie General Manager Brian MacLellan signed defensemen Brooks Orpik to a staggering  5-year $27.5 million deal and Matt Niskanen to a 7-year $40.25 million deal. There is no question the Caps defense improved over last year's crop of 23 years old and younger crowd, but I'm perplexed by the length of these contracts. That's risky.  

Orpik turns 34-years old before the season starts. Did I mention that I hate him? Orpik is on the downside of his career. Did I mention that I hate him? Will his leadership help Mike Green return to his form by protecting his back? So hard to tell, but it will be interesting to watch. Did I mention that I hate him for his sometimes classless behavior and Pittsburgh whininess? It will be hard for me to root for him, but I can't argue with the fact that he's won a Cup.

Read more here.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Caps Fans Waited For This? Brian MacLellan Promoted to GM


Really Ted? You hired the guy that worked for General Manager George McPhee, as assistant GM for the past seven years, and a guy that has been in the organization for thirteen years. Clearly neither you nor Dick Patrick want to win a Cup because if you did, MacLellan would not be your new general manager. How someone inside the organization qualifies as "fresh eyes" that can look critically at this team is beyond me. Were you turned down by other candidates? That's the only reason this decision would make sense to me.

The Caps problems start with drafting and trading for players that aren't hard workers and won't get dirty by sitting in front of the net to score, as an example. Teams that win the Cup play hard. The Caps don't. That's a culture problem that the Caps have had since the Alex Ovechkin era began. You can't fix that problem by promoting someone that's been in the organization while that culture was created. There are specific player needs, too, like stronger defense, better goal tending and depth down the middle, but the culture needs fixed, too, and that's harder to do. 

Read more here.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

GMGM Has No Place to Hide


General Manager George McPhee created this dreadful Capitals team. He arrived in Washington in 1997, the only year he sniffed a Stanley Cup. That happened on the back of Dave Poile's team and Olie Kolzig's inspired goal tending. Other than that high note, GMGM has not succeeded in the playoffs and the seven Southeast Division titles don't impress me.

GMGM's in the hot seat, but will owner Ted Leonsis fire him? Will he then turnaround and hire some ex-Capital because marketing is more important than the Cup? I miss the good old days, too, but I'm tired of nostalgia hires. I want a general manager and coaches that have Stanley Cup winning experience. Will that even make any difference if Dick Patrick is still here?

Read more here.

Let's go Caps!

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