Photo credit: Clyde Caplan
With Eric Fehr sidelined due to an upper-body-but-definitely-not-shoulder injury, Wojtek Wolski made his return to active duty in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Islanders. For Wolski, who had been scratched since March 12th, it should have been an opportunity to re-establish himself as a contributing member of the Capitals squad.
That didn’t happen. Wolski made no impression of any kind– probably because he got under 7 minutes of ice. That’s not a lot for Washington’s second best possession forward. So what gives?
Wolksi played 6:51 in 9 shifts– just two of them in the third period, and none in the game’s final 10 minutes. That shouldn’t be surprising for a fourth liner, but we can’t let ourselves think that this was a real opportunity for Wolski to prove himself. Before Tuesday, Wolski had been averaging closer to 15 minutes on ice per game. And of those 9 shifts, all but one were made on the fly. Wolski saw just one faceoff, surprisingly in the offensive zone.
I understand that Wolski is a cheap contract (just $600k this season) and that his career has been pocked by injury, but he’s undeniably a talented a player. There is compelling evidence that he tilts the ice in his team’s favor whenever he’s on ice. But for some reason, Coach Adam Oates does not play him. It took an injury to Eric Fehr, the Caps’ third best possession forward, for Wolski to even crack the lineup. And when Wolski’s actually in play, he doesn’t get the time or deployment necessary to do what he does best.
Wolski’s shot-attempt differential was plus-4 on Tuesday. His goal differential was plus-1. He didn’t get an assist on Ribeiro’s goal, but I want you to take a look at it anyway.
Wolski crashed the net. Brouwer set up Ribeiro, and Ribeiro obviously did a great job scoring, but Wolksi was the one up in Nabokov’s grill, putting his stick on the ice for a rebound, and drawing away the defender who would have otherwise blocked Ribs’ shot. They don’t hand out assists for that kind of play, but it sure as hell matters.
Well, maybe not to Adam Oates, who gave Wolski less than 2 minutes of ice-time after that goal.