Monday, February 29, 2016

Marcus Johansson’s success at playing center

Playing with line mates Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson, Marcus Johansson’s success at playing center on the third line is a sign of a good fit. The player fans love to hate is turning in a tremendous season, particularly, after finding his stride in between the 35-year old speedster, Chimera, and the aggressive style of Tom Wilson. That line is producing. Chimera has speed and toughness, Wilson has grit, they both win board battles, and Johansson has speed to set up plays and make his own.

The interesting part of Johansson’s season happened in November after the New York Rangers game. He got suspended for two games for an illegal hit on defenseman Thomas Hickey. It was not intentional on his part, but the suspension still surprised for a player not known for toughness.

Johansson never seemed like the right fit playing opposite of Alex Ovechkin with Nicklas Backstrom. The two of them needed someone like T.J. Oshie to be the battler and energy guy on their line and that is not the type of player Johansson is. He, on the other hand, needed some board battlers and speed players so he could make plays instead of killing scoring chances when Ovie dished to him. Coach Barry Trotz continues to mix up the lines when they get stale, so these lines change.

Johansson moved to third line center when Jay Beagle went on long-term injured reserve to have wrist surgery at the end of December. The third line gelled, giving Trotz lots of offensive power in the top 9 forward and the ability to easily roll four lines.

Johansson’s played with more energy all season. He gets Trotz’s system now and is flourishing in it more. He is playing the game the right way, too, by hustling, forechecking, going to the net, setting up screens, and getting garbage goals, too. It will be great for the Caps if he keeps it up during the playoffs. Johansson’s 4 points in 14 games or 2 points in 7 games during 2012-2013 is not enough. Maybe keeping him as the third line center with Chimera and Wilson will fix that.

Let’s go Caps!

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Caps play against the West

How do the Caps play against the West? They struggle against the number one team, Dallas Stars, as evidenced by the four unanswered goals scored against them on Saturday. The Caps mustered another third period comeback with three goals, but it was too little too late for the win. They have not beaten that team since October 25, 2008. The Caps record is 3-13-0 in Dallas. That is not good if the stars align, the Caps stay healthy, they keep their mojo, and they make it to the Stanley Cup finals and those finals go through Dallas. A lot has to be true for that to happen, but it is an unpleasant scenario even for the team that made history by being the fastest ever to win 40 games.

The Caps beat the Chicago Blackhawks in their early season meeting, 4-1. If they played today, it would be the number one goal scorer with 35, Alex Ovechkin, against the number two, Patrick Kane, with 33. It would be a tougher game because the intensity of the games rises as the playoffs get closer. They lost to the San Jose Sharks, in 6th place today, by 1 goal also in October.

Caps have not played the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, or Anaheim Ducks yet and those are the 3rd through 5th place teams in the West. The Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators are 7th and 8th. Caps beat the Avalanche 7–3 and beat the Predators 5–3 although they let them back into that game.

Caps games against the West are always close, but it is clear that Dallas is the scariest team for the Caps to face in the playoffs if they survive the first three rounds. There is way too much hockey left to play before they get there, if they get there. It is still not fun to contemplate. The NHL is super competitive.

The discussion of what the Caps need before the trade deadline dominates the local hockey media. Depth and the fact that Brooks Orpik did not play on the road trip, as anticipated, are the biggest concerns, but the Caps do not need anything. They have a lot of talent and when they are focused. And playing the game the right way, they are hard to beat.

Is it April yet?

Let’s go Caps!

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Monday, February 01, 2016

Best All Star game ever

The three on three format for the NHL All Star game generated enough action and highlight reel plays to keep the games entertaining, but it was the John Scott story that stole the show. NHL fans made Scott an All Star and he made it to Nashville despite the NHL’s action to keep him away from the game. The league could not have imagined the best hockey All Star game ever playing out around the story of the Pacific Division’s Captain.
The Nashville fans celebrated Scott, after his two goal performance in the preliminary round. They chanted “MVP” for him while hockey fans online, once again, voted Scott in for an award. He was not on the ballot. Scott deserved the MVP after his two goal performance in the Pacific versus Central game. As many said, his second goal was well earned.
There could not have been a more heartwarming story and it was fantastic to see his very pregnant wife and young kids with him on a magical night in his forgettable NHL career as an enforcer. Maybe Gary Bettman and company should learn something and consider including a fan voted non-traditional All Star to the big game, the one that means nothing regardless of how hard the NHL tries to sell it otherwise, instead of stashing John Scott in the AHL. At least, there is talk of Scott getting some endorsement deals.
That is what the NHL does not get, at times. The magic about hockey is contained within the stories of the people who play, train, coach, manage, own, support, and watch the game. John Scott had a ball and so did all the fans who watched him.
On a side note, nice to see Braden Holtby, Nicklas Backstrom and Egeny Kuznetsov represent the Caps well at the All Star game, but time to get back to it on Tuesday.
Let’s go Caps!

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