Monday, November 8, 2010

Peepin' Foes: Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin and his entourage will be in the Garden on Tuesday night to face off with the Rangers at 7:30 (damn you Versus).

Where We Are: Sitting at .500 with seven wins and seven losses, coming off of a 2-0 failure against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday evening - the opener of a four game homestand. That defeat dropped the Blueshirts to 2-4-1 at the Garden, which would be nauseating if you didn't consider that the Devils are 0-5-1 at the Rock and the Sabres are 0-6-1 at HSBC.

Where They Are: Washington is tied for best in the league with 20 points, holding a record of 10-4-0. They have a +13 goal differential - the Rangers are flat at 0. The Caps enter the game having won four in a row after Mike Green scored a power-play goal 29 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 victory over Philly on Sunday.

Who To Watch For: Green has goals in four straight games, as does the other Alex, Alexander Semin. The Ovechkin fellow has 18 points this season, 10 of which came in the last six games. His center Nicklas Backstrom 'only' is averaging a point per game and had two assists in each of his last two games. Semyon Varlamov is injured so Left Wing Lock has Michal Neuvirth starting across from Hank after getting the Philly game off. Who the hell is he? Well Neuvirth has played just 35 games over the last three seasons while winning two Calder Cups in the AHL and is 8-3-0 this campaign. He was drafted in the second round in 06, 13 picks after Bobby Sanguinetti and 20 ahead of Arty Anisimov. Real American Hero John Carlson - the guy I wanted the Rangers to draft instead of MDZ in '08 - has been quite good, especially for a rookie, and has eight points. The latest Ups & Downs at Japer's Rink says that he is playing at a high level now that Green is relatively healthy after a shoulder injury (nine points in 11 games). Sadly my buddy, my pal Tom Poti is out with a lower-body injury, a bad groin ... which lends itself to just so many jokes ...

What To Watch For: The Pack line of Arty-Dubi-Cally to have a bit of an easier time than in recent games as Washington lacks tough, shutdown defensemen (sorry, plus-minus machine Jeff Schultz doesn't count). On that same note, Staal vs Ovechkin is always wonderful to watch. DJ King to help justify Derek Boogaard's paycheque by renewing their relations. Tomas Fleischmann to set up a Washington goal - he had four assists in his three games against NY last season.

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Rangers standing up for each other. That's all I ask, that's all I want to see at this point.

Also Check Out: The Caps have a really strong blogosphere but I just head to Japer's Rink for all my info.


MikeL-Caps said...

And as a Japers' Rink regular, I head here for all my Rangers info (much more interesting than BSB...)

Now let's talk Schultz. As a Caps fan for over 2 decades, switching from the Rangers when the Rangers sent my 2 favorite players at the time (Ridley and Miller) to DC in exchange for Bobby Carpenter, I have seen pretty much every game Schultz has played.

When he started out, he was a very raw player, very rough edges, he was slow, out of position a lot, and there was an awkwardness about him.

A lot of that is gone. Schultz may be the smartest defenseman on the team. He knows he's not a great skater and never will be, so he makes up for it with game study. Someone I sit with regularly said Schultz was lucky to always be in the right place at the right time, and I said that that is preparation and discipline. He knows the strength and weaknesses in his game and he works to hide the weaknesses and emphasize the strengths.

He isn't physical, but that comes from his skating. He doesn't have great recovery speed if he misses a big hit, so instead, he gets into a solid position and makes the opponent try to get around him and his long reach. He is good at blocking shots, and he knows that the Blue Line is his BFF when defending.

His work ethic is also exceptional, and while he doesn't work the hardest of the Caps (tough to be the hardest working player on a team with Alex Ovechkin and Matt Bradley) he works very hard and studies game film.. you can see it that he anticipating situations when the Caps have the puck and when they don't.

He's never going to be the big hitter like a Jeff Beukeboom, but he can certainly be a solid defenseman for many years with the Caps... and when he retires, folks are going to remember how effective he was for many years (much the way Ranger fans remember Ron Greschner...)

mike said...

Most Ranger fans remember Dubinsky abusing Schultz in the '09 playoffs....he torched Schultz in a beautiful move along the boards, and Schultz fell down as he attempted to stay w/Dubinsky. That image is hard to shake for some Ranger fans, like me for example.:)

mike said...

Forgot to mention that Dubinsky scored perhaps the nicest goal of his career on that play. My mistake.

MikeL-Caps said...

What most Ranger fans don't know about Dubinsky's play was that Schultz was trying to play with a cracked rib. If you've ever had a cracked rib, you know what kind of hell this is. Every breath hurts, sleeping is awful because if you roll over onto the cracked rib you're awake and in stinging pain. I got one playing rec league softball, and I have no idea how anyone could even try to play NHL hockey...

After that, Schultz was put on the IR and didn't play again that playoff season. Of course, that was 2 years ago, and he's learned a lot more about his game and opponents game since then as well....

mike said...

I think the arena lights got in Schultz' eyes at that exact moment Dubinsky was going past him, too.