What a difference a year makes for several members of the Washington Capitals.
While Martin Erat, Jack Hillen, Steve Oleksy and Mike Ribeiro are all making their Washington playoff debuts this spring, mainstays like John Erskine, Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault are making the most of increased opportunities in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Below is a look at where and how several Capitals performed a year ago, and how they’ve done so far in the 2013 NHL postseason.
2012: After sitting as a healthy scratch for the final 27 games of the regular-season, Erskine appeared in just four games in the postseason.
Erskine played a total of 8:03 in a Game 1 loss against the Rangers in Round 2 and was then a healthy scratch for the remaining six games of the series.
2013: Erskine was in the Washington lineup for all 13 games in April, during which the team went 11-1-1 and clinched the Southeast Division title.
Erskine has also been a key cog along the Capitals’ blueline in Games 1 and 2 against the Rangers with seven blocked shots and five hits. He is third on the team with an average of 22:10 TOI per game, and ranks second on the team in shorthanded ice time per game (4:01).
2012: Fehr’s return home ended in disappointment last spring, as the Manitoba native was limited to two goals and three points in 35 games in his one season with the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets did not reach the playoffs and they did not offer Fehr a contract at season’s end.
2013: Fehr has arguably been one of Washington’s most impressive forwards through two games against the Rangers and has seen time on both special teams units.
Fehr’s effort was particularly noteworthy during overtime in Game 2. With the Rangers on the power play early in the overtime period, Fehr nearly scored the winning goal on a shorthanded rush before being denied by Lundqvist. As they play went back to the Capitals zone, Fehr hurried back and made a sliding block on a shot from Derick Brassard to keep the game scoreless. Minutes later, the Capitals won the game on a power play of their own.
2012: Hillen was a healthy scratch in 21 of the Nashville Predators’ final 31 regular-season games before suiting up for Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Detroit Red Wings. Hillen played sparingly in those two games was then a healthy scratch in Nashville’s nine remaining postseason contests.
2013: Hillen was a fixture on Washington’s blue line for the final 22 games of the regular-season and has been paired with Steve Oleksy in Games 1 and 2 of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Rangers.
2012: Despite lining up as a top-six forward and seeing time on the power play, Johansson was unable to produce offensively (7GP, 0G, 0A, 0PTS, -3 rating and 7SOG) during last year’s 7-game series against the Rangers.
2013: Johansson ended his postseason scoring drought early in this year’s series against the Rangers, netting the game-winning goal in Game 1 when he split New York’s top defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh before beating Henrik Lundqvist one-on-one.
Johansson has also earned the trust and respect of head coach Adam Oates who joked on the bench after the 22-year-old missed a chance to beat Lundqvist again in Game 2: “I just said to him, ‘He’s a pretty good goalie, eh? I wouldn’t have scored that either.’ Just trying to lighten the mood.”
2012: Oleksy and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers were swept in the opening round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs against the Connecticut Whale.
2013: The 27-year-old has made the most of his Stanley Cup Playoff debut highlighted by a 60-foot outlet pass to Johansson on the eventual game-winning goal in Game 1. Minutes later, Oleksy blocked a Derick Brossard shot with his face- something he’d later call “par for the course.”
Through two games, Oleksy leads all Washington defensemen with 10 hits.
2012: Perreault appeared in just four playoff games for the Capitals last spring (4GP, 0G, 0A, 0PTS, -1 rating, 1SOG), and played a career-low 4:23 in Washington’s Game 3 loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Perreault was eventually made a healthy scratch for the final 10 games of the playoffs, including the Capitals’ entire second-round series against the Rangers.
2013: Perreault has been solid in the opening two games of the 2013 playoffs, centering veterans Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr on Washington’s third line.
Perreault assisted on Chimera’s insurance marker in Washington’s 3-1 win in Game 1 and he was on the ice for Mike Green’s power play game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2.
2012: Ribeiro and the Dallas Stars missed the playoffs for a fourth straight year last spring following a 10th place finish in the Western Conference.
2013: Ribeiro hasn’t looked out of place in his first Stanley Cup Playoff experience since 2008. The Capitals’ second-line center has created offensively and had the primary assist on the game-winning overtime goal in Game 2.
Ribeiro faked a shot on the power play that drew both forward Ryan Callahan and defenseman John Moore out of position. This in turn provided Ribeiro with a clean look to a wide open Green who went on to beat Lundqvist for the winning goal.