John Erskine’s Not-Good Weekend


Photo: Alex Brandon

Despite his menacing stare and his even angrier-looking fists, there may be no nicer man in the Washington Capitals locker room than John Erskine. That’s why this is hard to write.

The 33-year-old Erskine, who was given a two-year $3.9 million extension from George McPhee last February, may be in the throes of his worst season ever as a pro.

The veteran defenseman — who is supposed to be a leader out on the ice — is an anchor on the Caps. His 47.2% puck possession is 3.6% worse than the team does without him. The only defensemen on the team with a lower possession scores are rookie Connor Carrick and the recently released Alexander Urbom. Erskine ranks 173rd out of the 230 defensemen with at least 25 games played when measured by corsi percentage.

Then there’s the goals. While Erskine is on the ice at even strength, 62% of the goals scored on the ice belong to the opponent. Big John also has a penalty differential of minus-9 (he’s taken nine more penalties than he’s drawn).

Then there’s the eye test, my personal favorite, which Erskine fails regularly.

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Photo: Jamie Sabau

This is going to be brutal, but it needs to be said.

The Washington Capitals are one of the worst teams in the league. This is the most frustrated I’ve been with a Capitals’ team since 2001-02, when that version of the Caps missed the playoffs despite acquiring Jaromir Jagr over the summer

I’d be more okay with the Capitals’ play this season — sometimes teams just don’t gel — if they were actually a bunch of terrible players playing terribly. But this team is loaded with a good core: a three-time MVP, one of the best centers in the game, three above-average defensemen, an above-average goaltender, and a bunch of intelligent veteran players. Unfortunately, the players in front of Braden Holtby either repeatedly make the same dumb mistakes, are too passive on defense, or are too careless with the puck.

There is no urgency with this team despite their difficult upcoming schedule and their recent seven-game losing streak. In the last two games, the Caps have given up nine goals against the Sabres and the Blue Jackets. Nine goals. Against the Buffalo freaking Sabres and the Columbus effing Blue Jackets.

Let’s review the Columbus goals. I want you to understand my pain.

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

In overtime, unless you’re a really bad hockey team or extremely good at shootous, you play to win the game. A minute and fifteen seconds into overtime, the Washington Capitals tried to do exactly that, making an aggressive play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ offensive zone to try and secure that one extra standings point.

They paid the price for it however, as Jeff Skinner scored his hat-trick game-winning goal on a jailbreak odd-man rush into the Capitals defensive zone.

Every Capital on the ice minus Philipp Grubuaer shares blame on the goal. Let’s take a look at the bad reads and bad decisions. (This is as close as we’ll ever get to a Justin Bourne Systems Analyst post.)

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A Short Timeline of Capitals Players Requesting Trades


Photo: Greg Fiume

Two thousand thirteen has been a year of reinvigoration for the Capitals. After a dreary start to the lockout-shortened season, the team began a Cinderella-story rally in March that carried the team into the playoffs and their captain into another MVP trophy. But the last few months have revealed a Capitals team that is not uniformly happy with their spots on the team. While new coach Adam Oates has made his stars happy, a number of lower-tiered players have grown discontent. Three players have requested trades in the last six weeks.

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The Alex Ovechkin Goal That Was For Naught (GIF)


Photo credit: Nick Wass

Late in the third period with the Washington Capitals trailing 3-2, Alex Ovechkin took a pass from Marcus Johansson in the center of the ice and fired a ridiculous snap shot towards Anaheim Ducks’ goaltender Jonas Hiller. The puck, rolling end over end, beat Hiller clean. PING.

Ovechkin raised his hands to the sky, the goal horn went off, and Caps fans celebrated yet another miracle comeback goal from their team’s captain.

But the puck never actually went in. The referee waived it off.

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Photo credit: Robert Mayer

On Thursday, when word surfaced that Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine was close to returning to game action, we all wondered what George McPhee would do to get Big John back on the roster. Would McPhee put favorite of the coaching staff, Alexander Urbom, on waivers? Would he send down he-of-unlimited-options, Nate Schmidt? Or would GMGM send Dmitry Orlov back to Hershey for a seventh time?

Against the Florida Panthers Friday night, Orlov tried to make the decision easy for the team’s management, playing perhaps the best game of his career. Orlov skated 20:04 overall and 2:42 in overtime, the most of any Caps defenseman in the frame. Oates also rewarded Orlov during the shootout, giving him an attempt in round eight.

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Photo credit: @recordsANDradio

With 33 seconds left in the third period, the Washington Capitals trailed the Tampa Bay Lighning 5-4. They needed a hero. Enter Alex Ovechkin, already with three goals to his name, to save the day. Again.

As John Carlson slid a cross-ice pass to Ovechkin near The Ovi Spot™, the Russian machine winded up with all his might and fired. He somehow found a hole next to Ben Bishop and tied the game.

Because a hat trick is cool and all, but four goals is so much cooler.

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Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowsk

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin scored again tonight. *Yawn* At this point, it’s whatevs. It’s like breathing. It happens and you don’t even notice it anymore.

But let’s not take Ovechkin’s resurgence for granted. Instead, let’s waft into our noses the aroma of slightly-charred vulcanized rubber discs sent towards the net en masse. This is historic. This is a season we may be talking about for the rest of our lives. No hyperbole.

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Facepalm on the background is an appropriate reaction to your team going to the penalty kill because a player’s underwear is of wrong color.

I knew something was wrong with the “Fear Of Missing Out on Hockey (#FOMOH)” commercial the first time I saw it. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Something about two of my favorite players, Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin, doing some truly horrible acting in that hospital just didn’t sit well with me.

Then I put it all together. During a commercial break of that awful Caps-Pens game, I realized that Laich is a rule-breaker.

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Thanks to @jp_daddi0 for the screenshot

Back on October 26th in Calgary, Alberta, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom‘s took a puck to the face. Midway through the second period, the Swede was hit in the jaw by an errant pass from Marcus Johansson. Backstrom, bleeding from his lip, returned to the bench. One of our readers caught him ripping one of his teeth out and handing it to the trainer. Yikes.

Playing the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night, Backstrom endured more facial violence. After recording three assists in the game, Nicky spoke to reporters in the locker room. His smile was somewhat less pearly.

According to the District Sports Page’s Katie Brown, Backy had lost another tooth. How did it happen?

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