With Green out, Jay Beagle steps up on defense
Welcome to our weekly edition of Penn Quarter Sports Tavern’s 6-Pack of Questions, where we aim to keep it real while answering your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.
Let’s get started.
@majonesy88 Aside from the obvious, what do the #Caps need to do/work on to start getting even strength goals?
Through their first 19 games the Caps rank 12th in the NHL with 36 even-strength goals. Of those, 35 have come 5-on-5 and one has come 4-on-4. Alex Ovechkin leads the Caps with seven even-strength goals, followed by Joel Ward and Jason Chimera with five, and Nicklas Backstom and Mikhail Grabovski with four. The reason for your question lies in the fact that the second line of Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer has combined for just four even-strength goals this season. Simply put, that line, whether it was with Johansson or Grabovski or Eric Fehr, has played far too many shifts in its own zone this season. In most cases the key to getting even-strength goals is to gain a territorial edge. The Caps’ third line has been outstanding in that department and the top line has done a better job in recent games. I still believe the Caps’ fourth line has some offensive potential, but if they can stay even or on the plus side, they’re doing their job. For whatever reason, that second line is struggling to connect with passes in all three zones and it’s really stunted its productivity at even strength.
@TMac239 If the Caps had 2 goalies get injured during the same game, who would be their emergency goalie?
OK, so we’re going hypothetical here, right? As you may know, on Dec. 12, 2008 the Caps signed their website producer, Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt, to a one-day contract after Jose Theodore went down with a hip flexor injury during a morning skate before a home game against the Ottawa Senators. Leonhardt backed up emergency starter Brent Johnson while the Caps waited for Semyon Varlamov to arrive from San Antonio. Leonhardt dressed but did not play and Varlamov replaced him on the bench 9:03 into the game. I’m guessing the Caps would pull a similar move if their hands were forced. As for which Capitals skater would make the best goalie, if I had to choose, it would be between defenseman Steve Oleksy, who played catcher in junior college, or Brooks Laich, who was asked to play defense for the Capitals under former coach Bruce Boudreau. Come to think of it, defenseman Karl Alzner has a knack for diving behind his goalies to make saves, so he’d be in the mix as well.
@Robostop10 With GMGM needing 1-4 D help, why not deal with EDM/BUF who are in 'sell' mode? Injuries are beginning to pile up.
Quite honestly, I think the Oilers were interested in making a deal with the Caps prior to sending defenseman Ladislav Smid to division rival Calgary for a pair of prospects. The Oilers were well represented in the Capitals’ press box in the weeks leading up to the Smid trade. I actually think Smid would have been a nice fit as a left-handed defenseman on a second pairing with Mike Green. Prior to the trade I was told Oilers GM Craig MacTavish was interested in Marty Erat, but I’m not sure how accurate that is when you consider the Oilers acquired two prospects for Smid. As for Buffalo, the Sabres certainly appear to be ripe for the picking, especially a team looking for a veteran goaltender like Ryan Miller. Defenseman Tyler Myers was a healthy scratch for a while last season and is a minus-9 this season. He’s a project and some say he’s too soft in his own end. But the player I’d like to see the Caps go after is lefty Braydon Coburn in Phiilly. The Flyers would be more interested in dealing injury-plagued defenseman Andrej Meszaros, but few believe either team’s GM would make a deal within the division.
@PotomacView salary cap situation kills improvements except from within. Can the D improve enough to make a real SC playoff run?
That’s a tough one. Nate Schmidt and Alex Urbom have actually played OK since being thrown into the lineup because of injuries to Jack Hillen and John Erskine. But to say they’re ready to make a Stanley Cup run is a stretch. I talked with Erskine on Thursday and it doesn’t sound like he’s made significant strides in his recovery from offseason knee surgery. [Story coming this weekend]. If you asked me the Caps’ greatest need right now my answer would be the same as it was last June. They need a solid, reliable No. 4 defenseman who can eat up 23 minutes a game. But as George McPhee already knows, it’s hard to find teams willing to trade them. Unless or until the Caps can find a team willing to give up a No. 4 defenseman, Schmidt and Urbom will continue to develop on the back end.
@Saltime182 What's the trade market like for Green? Teams know to pound him and he'll turn it over. Too soft, disappears playoffs...
Well, let’s just say there’s not much of a market for a guy who has missed 44.5 percent of his team’s games over the past four seasons and has another year remaining on a contract that pays him nearly $6.1 million a year. Excluding tonight’s game in Detroit, Green has missed 103 of the Capitals’ past 231 games due to injury. His latest injury appears to be a minor one but it's worth noting that a big reason for those injuries is Green’s inability to shield himself from big hits. When Green is healthy and skating like he did last season, the risks he takes offensively are worth the rewards. But when he’s tentative and holding onto the puck too long – like he has this season – he becomes a target in his own end. Perhaps the best way to keep Green healthy is to pair him with an experienced, reliable partner. But again, those blue liners aren’t growing on trees outside VerizonCenter.
@jtnatsfan any chance caps will trade neuvirth for yakupov?
Nice try. I would not rule out the Caps might have some interest in Nail Yakupov, who, by the way, shoots left and plays right wing. [Which means he would have to play left wing under Adam Oates]. And I’m certainly not ruling out the Oilers want to trade him. After all, Yakupov told reporters this week, “I don't see any trust in me now. I'm playing lower and lower minutes and I just want to help my team win every game and try to do something. I'm trying to shoot, trying to skate, trying to hit but I haven't had that much chance to do that. It's been very hard to watch the game from the bench when my teammates are fighting for pucks or points because I know I can do the same thing.” Through 18 games, Yakupov had two goals and two assists and was a minus-15. This after he took the league by storm last season with 17 goals in 48 games. The Oilers are looking for a goalie and Michal Neuvirth certainly could be on their radar, but unless it’s a blockbuster that includes a defenseman [Andrew Ference?] coming back to Washington I just don’t see it happening, especially with Evgeny Kuznetsov presumably waiting in the wings.