A Life Sentence
On game days, Caps coach Glen Hanlon holds court for the media three different times. He first addresses them after the morrning skate. He chats with them again a couple hours before face-off, and of course, he holds a post-game press conference.
Today’s pregame chat yielded a few worthy tidbits. Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post asked Hanlon whether he had given any thought to breaking up the team’s top forward unit of Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus and Chris Clark.
“There is never a discussion of moving,” said Hanlon. “You have to understand the Russian mindset. It’s like, you play with somebody for life. You don’t change people. The KLM Line, they start out on [the] Red Army [team] when you’re like 12 years old. You don’t even dream of changing. I’ve done that with our [national] team in Belarus. They just look at you like, ‘This is the weirdest doggone thing.’ So it’s kind of Ovie’s mindset that he plays with Zubrus and Clark.”
Hanlon intimated that he would give the trio a chance to work out whatever struggles it may be having on its own.
“I’ve said lots of times that I admire [Tampa Bay coach John] Tortorella’s persistence in [saying], ‘You guys sort this out.’ They’re not flipping lines every single time they get into a dry spell.”
Hanlon did add: “Nothing is forever. There might come a time when that would happen.
“That second line center has to establish himself as a top NHL player. He’s got to be a 60-70 point guy or I’m not too sure that the experiment is worth it to be flipping everybody around.”
Speaking of “that second line center,” there will be another change in that regard for tonight’s game with San Jose at Verizon Center. Brooks Laich will be scratched in favor of Kris Beec. Hanlon felt the need to establish a better presence on the power play, and believes Beech may be able to accomplish that.
“It’s not because of the way that [Laich] has played,” said the Caps bench boss. “We had a real good meeting with him. We’re putting Kris Beech in to try to generate some offense and to try to get a second unit on the power play. We’ve had three wingers out there and we’ve contemplated trying to just tell them to tie up an offensive zone face-off, but that hasn’t worked. Then they’re chasing the puck down. They only get 40 seconds and they’re using 10 of it to chase the puck. We’re hoping that Beech’s power play ability [will help].”
We’re minutes away from seeing how it all works out. One caveat: the power play may not see much action against the Sharks. San Jose has permitted five or fewer power plays in each of its last 16 games, and three or fewer in 10 of those tilts.