Execution

sad caps - Rob Carr

Sad Caps (Photo: Rob Carr)

There’s a lot of conclusions you can draw from Wednesday’s night’s obliterating defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. One might look at that loss and decide that the lack of experience on Washington’s defense corps is untenable. Or maybe you could decide that the continued pairing of Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer is bad news. It’s conceivable that a studious person could calculate that the Capitals are on-pace for the most shots against in a season since 1987 and decide that something must change.

Those people, however, are all wrong. The true problem with the Capitals last night was just a lack of execution.

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Photo credit: Dave Sandford/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals have a very busy week: four games in six days. As Alex Ovechkin returns to the line-up, Capitals head coach Adam Oates decided to shake-up his lines. The changes are drastic.

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Latta poses with his milestone puck. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

The Washington Capitals have had a wealth of fourth line enforcers over the last decade: Stephen Peat, Donald Brashear, Matt Bradley, and even Matt Hendricks. But don’t lump center Michael Latta, the other guy in the Filip Forsberg/Martin Erat trade, into that category.

Over the first month of the season, Latta has been playing some of the most inspired hockey of his career. And it’s because he’s doing a little bit of everything well.

Latta is irritating to play against. I’d even call him a pest. He constantly runs his mouth on the ice (like Tom Wilson) and is a physical, hard-hitting player. He sometimes plays on the edge, delivering cheap shots behind the play, but rarely is a penalty called on him. Usually he draws retaliatory penalties from the guy he’s terrorizing. And if Latta’s challenged to fight, he can back it up.

None of that is too uncommon, but Latta also has some offensive talent. He had 38 points in 76 games between AHL Milwaukee and Hershey last year. This season, he has been Hershey’s second leading scorer before getting called up to the Capitals. He is blossoming as a player, translating the finishing ability he’s been developing in Hershey into his first NHL point: a beautiful assist on John Carlson’s goal.

When the Martin Erat trade happened last year at the trade deadline, many people (including me) criticized George McPhee for trading away the team’s second best prospect for an aging forward and a nobody. Latta is belying that descriptor, and he may yet have a long career in the NHL– just like Forsberg.

Take a look at Latta’s week and you’ll see why I’m excited.

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Photo credit: Eric Hartline

Fighting in the NHL has been on the decline. It might be on its way out of the sport. Roster spots for goons are dwindling. Nerds have found no evidence that fighting impacts winning.

Yet on Friday night in Philadelphia, the Flyers decided the only way to save face after a figurative beatdown from the Caps was a literal beatdwn. Once Joel Ward scored his hat-trick goal, Wayne Simmonds threw an elbow to incite a fight with Tom Wilson. Ray Emery, Flyers back-up goalie and trained boxer, skated all the way down the ice and started throwing punches at Braden Holtby — even though Holtby declined to fight.

Steve Oleksy then dropped Vincent Lecalvier. Alexander Urbom fought Brayden Schenn. There was also a bit of loud noises from John Carlson.

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In an interview to Alexey Shevchenko of KHL Fanzone in September, Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov emphasized his eagerness to jump to the NHL after the season’s end yet again. However, he said that a five- to seven-year offer in Russia might get him “thinking.”

It’s tough to blame Kuznetsov for wanting a secure financial future, but there’s one problem: He will never get that type of deal in the KHL. Let’s examine Kuznetsov’s comments from the interview.

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Things More Disrespectful Than Tomas Hertl’s Goal

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

San Jose rookie Tomas Hertl was amazing against the New York Rangers on Tuesday. He scored four goals in 11:12 of ice, including a spectacular nifty between-the-legs move on Martin Biron (who sported a .762 save percentage). It was a showboat move– most players would be afraid to try it in a real game for fear of missing– but it worked, and it got the broader sports world talking.

Capitals head coach Adam Oates didn’t like it though. He told The Washington Post’s Katie Carerra that he thinks Hertl made “a rookie mistake” and that he should not “disrespect the league.”

Oates has done his time in the league, and as a Hall of Famer his opinion matters, but he seems a bit out of proportion here. There are way worse things out there than cool-looking goals.

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The Capitals are Basically on Furlough

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Photo: Frederick Breedon

After Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, I figured their four days off this week would be a good thing. The team would get a chance to work on its 5v5 play, and the distance of time would give us a bit more clarity on a chaotic, young season.

Nope. I was wrong.

The Capitals don’t intend to tinker with their lines just yet, while the rest of the league seems dedicated to making Caps fans miserable. It’s been a four-day break in which players are still getting paid, but everyone still seems as grumpy as a non-essential government worker.

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Questioning the Logic of the Mathieu Perreault Trade

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Never forget. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Tonight I was naughty and ordered pizza. A food coma knocked me out for two and a half hours on our living room couch. When I woke up, walked downstairs, and refreshed the website I helped create, I learned that the Washington Capitals traded everybody’s favorite French Canadian bro, Mathieu Perreault, for a fourth round pick and a minor league dude from Anaheim that George McPhee will probably say “can play.”

As an avowed fan who gets emotionally connected to some of the players, it’s — ya know — kinda upsetting. From a blogger’s point of view, Perreault was one of the most interesting players on the team. He had personality. He delivered many, many pageviews.

But when I check my emotion and look at the facts, this move is curious on a few levels. Mathieu Perreault was an underrated player who brought the team a lot of value. Since the 2010-11 season, the Capitals have been a much better team with Perreault on the ice than off. Despite his tiny size, Perreault is a talented puck-chaser and forechecker who drives play.

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Who Will Be the Odd Man Out In the Caps Blueline Logjam?

Jack Hillen and Steve Oleksy are frontrunners for defensive spots on the Caps opening night roster. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

With days to go before the start of the regular season, a few questions regarding the Washington Capitals’ opening day roster remain unanswered. First among them is this: who will be the Caps bottom-pairing D-men?

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Evgeny Kuznetsov: Rocking the Red …or the Red Army?

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Photo credit: Sovetsky Sport

September 27th Update: Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov reports that Evgeny Kuznetsov will not be conscripted into the Russian army (via a source close to Kuzya).

I will not write any more stories about when Kuznetsov is coming to Washington…

I will not write any more stories about when Kuznetsov is coming to Washington…

I will not write any more stories about when Kuznetsov is coming to Washington…

Just when we decided that Evgeny Kuznetsov’s days in the KHL are numbered, his local draft board has mucked up the works.

Quick recap: come next season or sooner if Traktor’s postseason ends early, Kuznestov will join the Caps– unless a gazillion-ruble, long-term deal is foisted on him (unlikely in the KHL). RMNB no longer needed to relay the latest quotes from Kuzya or his agent or his team or KHL officials, because the matter was all but settled.

Enter Alexander Bochkarev, head of Chelyabinsk regional Voenkomat (military commissariat), basically the equivalent of a local draft board in the US.

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