Noteworthy Thursday Stuff

Here are few noteworthy items to tide you over till Saturday when the Caps play next. Funny how at this time of year with things going better than they have in years, the non-game days drag on and and it seems like forever till the next tilt.

I’ll start with my No. 1 stunner for the day. Wake up this morning and look at the Caps’ individual stat sheet for the season, and what jumps out at you? How about this: with 14 games remaining to play, each of Washington’s top seven defensemen — the seven most frequently used defensemen — is a plus or even in the plus/minus column. As best as I can tell, the Caps have finished an entire season with that distinction only twice, in 1983-84 and 1984-85.Jeff Schultz leads the pack at plus-7.

Next, I mentioned last night that the Caps have allowed but nine goals in their last six games and 37 in their previous 16. The last time the Caps surrendered as few as nine goals in a six-game stretch was more than five years ago, from Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2003.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov are each a plus-9 in the last four games. Milan Jurcina has been a plus or even player in 10 straight games and is plus-10 during that period.

Plenty of folks are talking about how the presence of Cristobal Huet in town has “pushed” Olie Kolzig to be better since then. Maybe those folks just got to town themselves? Kolzig is 13-5-3 in his last 21 starts and is now one win shy of 300 for his NHL career.Now, I know wins aren’t enough for some folks. They insist on having real purty GAA and save pct. numbers along with those big Ws. Okay then. Kolzig is 5-3-2 with a 2.20 goals against average and a .923 save pct. since the beginning of February. The only stinker in the bunch was a 6-3 loss at Carolina on Feb. 23. Four of those goals came on the power play, and four or five came on rebounds. Finally, Kolzig’s lengthy NHL history shows him to be a better performer after the All-Star break (111-96-31, 15 shutouts, a 2.56 GAA and a .909 save pct. in 252 games) then he is before the break (188-196-55, 20 shutouts, a 2.79 GAA and a .905 save pct. in 456 games). Most of us have seen this movie before.

As I mentioned in last night’s late night entry, the Caps are going to miss David Steckel. Today’s practice was an optional one, so it was hard to tell how Bruce Boudreau and staff might re-jigger the lines in Steckel’s absence. I’m reading between the lines (no pun intended) here, but here’s how I see the basis for Saturday’s lineup against Boston.

Obviously, the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov trio stays the same. Sounds to me like Tomas Fleischmann will be back in, probably on the left side of a unit with Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin. If that is indeed the case, we also know that the centers of the other two lines will be Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich. Five wingers are available to complement the flanks of the Gordon and Laich lines: Matt Bradley, Donald Brashear, Matt Cooke, Eric Fehr and Quintin Laing.

I’m guessing Laing might work his way back in as one of those wingers, simply because his average of 2:47 per game in shorthanded ice time is third among the team’s forwards, behind only Gordon (4:04) and Steckel (3:46).

I’m not as obsessed with the combos as Tarik and some of you other folks, so I’ll leave any further tea-leaf reading up to you. And add the disclaimer that my hunches could be off, too.

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11 Comments on “Noteworthy Thursday Stuff”

  1. Marks4Java Says:

    I think the fact that none of our top 7 D is a minus speaks to balance on the defense. While Greenie certainly stands out offensively, there aren’t really any “bad” defenseman on this team. Many want more “high-caliber” types (I might include myself in that group), but no one is just down right awful.

  2. gusty161 Says:

    Instead of Flash coming back to the second line, could it be that Clark is about to re-enter the lineup? You have to admit, he’s getting real close.

  3. KCME Says:

    I don’t think Tarik is so obsessed with the line combos as much as his readers are…they’re brutal!

  4. MD Says:

    It would be nice to see Laing back in again.

    Wonder how Boston is feeling about Saturday’s game, considering they lost to the Caps 10-2 Monday night, and just lost to the Leafs 8-2. Not saying they are in panic mode or anything, but it should be interesting.

  5. […] for MVP!…The Bleacher Report seems to like the Capitals…Each of the Capitals defensemen have plus ratings this season, probably a strike against people who think Olaf Kolzig’s poor stats are the […]

  6. Funkyglovefacewash Says:

    There’s something for all of the Shultz haters out there to chew on. btw – Forget about Ovechkin scoring 60 goals this season, that’s like saying the sky is blue on a clear day. The only question is will he score 70. Me predicts he will.

  7. doug Says:

    Hockey fans commenting on potential lines is probably to be expected. At least be thankful folks are intereted enough in reading the varied web articles/blogs/online newspaper material. That said, I can tell you that I’ve certainly commented on potential lines and players but never in a truly negative sense. However, what I’ve got to say is certainly not that credible. I’ve never played hockey once in my life and have only followed the sport since Deceember 2006. My wife would probably add that I’ve become a bit ‘addicted’ to Capitals Hockey stuff. The way some of these folks post and describe their hockey acumen certainly makes me wonder. Anyway, Vogs, thanks for all you do here on this blog and your great work for the Caps in a multitude of media roles. I really enjoy your podcasts as well. Your credibility is good because you are not afraid to be at least slightly critical and open-minded about hockey stuff.

  8. dumpnchase Says:

    Funny you mention that, a bunch of us were laying out predictions in the media room after practice today. Tarik came in lowest at 61. I said 65, but 70 would not shock me.

  9. dumpnchase Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate them. I agree that it’s good that folks are interested in line combos and personnel etc., I was just giving my pal Tarik a gentle jab, because it’s always his first question after practice and before games.

  10. doug Says:

    So here is my three cents worth on the line combos and some player notes. I think if this were the same Caps teams as the past 2 seasons (already out of the playoffs for all practicality), one would expect some different line combos. For instance, I think Coach BB might be inclined to give Flash considerably more ice time, and let Fehr play every night up in Hershey. There is no doubt in my mind Fehr is a real talent and will get retular minutes next year. Since we need every point we can get (hopefully 2 point nights for the good guys), Coach BB is forced to position the roster and play the roles required. The object this year is wins first, development second. My one player comment is on 55, Schultz. He garners too many negative posts in my opinion. He usually seems to be in the right place, has a huge reach with a long stick, and his stick is always on the ice, ready to poke the puck as required. He isn’t Pronger, but give it up – he never will be. I haven’t made up my mind between Erskine/Emminger. Both at times do fairly well, and both have some holes. Neither of those 2 guys play as consistent as Schultz. I’d call Schultz a B minus to a C plus guy, and Erskine/Emminger either solid B’s or D’s with not much in between.
    Poti hasa done well on his end this year. Forget the PowerPlay quarterback role – that isn’t needed of him on this squad. I like what I see of Lepisto and remain very concerned with the multiple concussions suffered by Pothier. I think that’s to the point where I would be more worried about his long-term health than playing hockey.

  11. Funkyglovefacewash Says:

    Mike- Tell Tarik he should have his press pass revoked for that prediction! Seriously though, I’m thinking somewhere between 68-72.

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