Last night I got my second look at a full game from the Washington Capitals. In the first game the Sabres pounded the Caps in route to a 5-1 W and last night was much of the same resulting in a Sabres 4-2 W. The Caps team that I saw back in November only had one difference then the team I saw last night, a new coach. Watching this game to me proved that Bruce Boudreau was not the problem in Washington.
The Caps started out red hot to start the season going 7-0-0, I was one of a few people at the time that was skeptical of the quick start. I told everyone who asked me about it to come ask me again in 40 games, well here we are. They sit in 11th place with 36 points, 2nd in the Southeast behind a surprising Panthers team. The one good thing for the Caps is that the Lightning have proved they just got hot at the right time last season. The Capitals were almost crowned Stanley Cup Champions in the summer with the signings of Ward, Hamrlik, and Vokoun. Also the trade for Brouwer and robbing the Avs in the Varlamov trade. The abscence of Mike Green, has been huge for the Caps, they are not the same team without him. However I don't think that he is going to come back and Caps are going to be world beaters again. They have to many problems on that squad. First might be the mistake of putting the C on Ovi. He is a great player, but a leader of a hockey club with a great deal of pressure I'm not so sure. Ovechkin has had the reputation of crumbling under pressure (Playoffs and 2010 Olympics). He has produced way under his potential in the last season and a half. He seems disinterested and slow at times, for example in the earlier Sabres matchup, Hecht beat Ovi in a foot race to a loose puck at center ice and pulled away from him resulting in a SHG. Maybe both the Caps and the Great 8 could use a change of scenery.
Another problem is the "look at me" attitude this team has. Most noteable in the characters of Alex Semin, AO, and Nicklas Backstrom. This team is not a team, there's a definate seperation that is not hard to notice. Ovechkin was crushed twice last night by Zack Kassian and Robyn Regher. Not one Cap player challenged either player or even seemed to be bothered by it. I'm pretty sure if someone put a good lick on Crosby the entire Pens team would come over the bench. Last week in Toronto Phaneuf slashed Vanek way after the whistle and 19 year old Brayden McNabb challenged Phaneuf along with 20 year old Zack Kassian on two different occassions. Those are signs of a close team that cares about their teammates. Semin right now has a one way ticket to the KHL next season, good luck to the Caps in trying to trade him at the deadline. Any team that offers more than a bag of pucks for Semin's services is making a huge mistake. He has no interest it putting in the work and effort needed to be an elite hockey player.
Last issue as with past Caps teams is the goaltending. Vokoun has not come as advertised and now that 1 million and change contract he signed in the offseason does seem to be about right. Young Michael Neuvirth is regressing after a strong season last year, but a horrible playoffs. The Capitals now need to hope Brayden Holtby currently playing in the AHL can bring stability in the coming years.
Perhaps the best thing that could happen to the Washington Capitals is for them to miss the playoffs this season. That could lead to some of the big changes they need.