Getting to Know Daniel Winnik

Daniel Winnik

Photo: Derek Leung

Daniel Winnik was the Caps’ biggest acquisition prior to the trade deadline and he stands poised to make his Caps debut this week.

Winnik is a versatile, bottom-six forward who figures to slot in on the Caps fourth line to start, but is capable of playing effective third-line minutes as well. He’ll likely be a fixture on the penalty kill.

Here’s a quick glance of the new Caps’ forward.

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Prepare For Takeoff: Week 19 Snapshot

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Photo: Chris Gordon

The trade deadline comes Monday afternoon, but a lot of teams have already started loading up. As of the time of this post, the Caps have only made one minor move in adding depth defenseman Mike Weber. That could change, as John Carlson is on LTIR and Brooks Laich was placed on waivers, giving the team some salary cap flexibility, if they wish to use it.

I still think the best move would be to add a skill player to replace Tom Wilson on the third line. It’s not so much that Wilson isn’t capable of handling third line minutes, but look how much adding skill player Marcus Johansson has helped that line. Adding another top-six capable player would give the Caps depth that would prove helpful come playoff time.

Regardless of what they do at the deadline, the Caps are a legitimate contender. Their game has had some kinks in it lately, but they remain on a nearly historic pace this season and are one of a handful of teams that have a legitimate shot at winning four playoff rounds come springtime.

Trade deadline activity and rumors continue to swirl and we’re fast approaching the stretch run. Prepare for takeoff and hold onto your butts. Please make sure your trays are in an upright and locked position and your seat belts are securely fastened.

The numbers are current as of the end of Sunday’s game against Chicago.

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The Extra Two Percent: Week 18 Snapshot

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Photo: Chris Gordon

The Extra 2% is a book about the Tampa Bay Rays looking for every small, incremental advantage over their competition and how this philosophy helped aid the team’s rise from the bottom of the MLB to being a perennial threat in the American League.

Part of the Rays’ motivation in doing so was financial. As a team with a small budget, they looked to find value in market inefficiencies. Given that they weren’t going to outspend their competitors, they looked for ways to outsmart them.

But there are lessons in the Rays’ approach to all teams of all budget sizes across every sport. In the world’s best sports leagues, the difference between the best and the worst is so minuscule that any advantage gained, no matter how small, can pay big dividends.

Enter the 2015-16 Capitals. Having afforded themselves such a comfortable place in the standings, it’d be easy for the Caps to coast over the final two months of the season. But the team shows no signs of resting on their laurels, as they continue to seek ways to improve. Barry Trotz continues to tinker with his lines, the team took a chance on signing a veteran center in the middle of January, the power play continues to try different things (while seemingly going away from other changes, perhaps hiding them from opponents who will be prescouting for the playoffs), and here on RMNB, we’ve suggested ways the Caps can continue to look for competitive advantages.

Keep improving, keep trying new things, keep looking for part of that extra two percent. You never know what you may come across that could make the difference in a third overtime at 1 AM on a weeknight in May.

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Three Cheers for Taylor Chorney

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Photo: Patrick Smith

With Brooks Orpik returning from injury on Tuesday night against the Kings, Taylor Chorney found himself as a healthy scratch for the first time in 40 games. As Mike Vogel pointed out, this was the longest consecutive game streak of Chorney’s career and he performed admirably during the stretch.

New York Rangers defenseman Our friend Kevin Klein over at Japers’ Rink also discussed how sturdy Chorney was during Orpik’s extended absence.

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Photo: Elsa

Entering the season, there were plenty of reasons to doubt if Jason Chimera could be a meaningful contributor. Save for the playoffs in which he look re-energized, 2014-15 was a lackluster season for the Ice Cheetah, spending time as both a healthy scratch and a fourth liner in Barry Trotz‘s first season behind the Caps’ bench. Combine that with this being Chimera’s second mediocre regular season over the previous three seasons (2013-14 being the exception) and Chimera now entering his age-36 season, many people, myself included, were skeptical of his ability to contribute in 2015-16

But somehow, someway, Chimera’s production has bounced back. There’s plenty of reasons to be suspicious of how sustainable this production is moving forward, but that doesn’t take away the 30 points Chimera has chipped in through the first 54 games.

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Empty-Net Goals Are Weird: An Analysis

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The Washington Capitals scored two empty-net goals last week–  a rare (I think) game-winning empty-netter off the stick of Jason Chimera and another from the world’s greatest scorer, Alex Ovechkin.

Before that, I had casually assumed that the Caps were one of the less productive teams in the league when the opposing goalie was pulled. I was wrong. The Caps are in a four-way tie for fourth place with 10 empty-netters (Chicago has 14, Dallas has 15)*. That’s a result of lots of empty-net time (45 minutes, 2nd highest in the league), not a high goal rate (13.3 goals per 60, at the bottom of the league’s middle third).

Fun fact: The New Jersey Devils, with the most ice time played with the opposing goalie pulled (47.8) also have the lowest goal rate (5.0). Teams should just play the full 60 at 6 on 5 against them.

If it seems like I’m fascinated by empty-netters right now, yes. It’s a fascinating subject. Take, for example, this tweet from the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg in response to someone asking how many of Alex Ovechkin’s career goals were empty netters.

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Photo: Monumental Network

As I touched on in the Sunday Snapshot, Brooks Laich is ice cold in 2015-16. With just one goal and five assists in 53 games, Laich’s $4.5-million cap hit becomes even more disastrous than it already was.

“I don’t think he is much of a hockey player anymore unfortunately,” one RMNB commenter said. Others, whom I will not excerpt here, were far less diplomatic.

While there is no plausible justification for his contract, which was authored by former GM George McPhee, I’d argue that Laich’s current season has been a solid one, his god-awful scoring luck excepted.

What follows is my hot-take defense of Brooks Laich’s 2015-16. Bring your pitchforks.

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Domination Consumes You: Week 17 Snapshot

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Photo: Keith Allison

The Washington Capitals got embarrassed by the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.

While the Caps are running away with the division lead and are consensus favorites to win the President’s Trophy for most regular-season points, the Stars are the most exciting team in the league. They’re locked in a duel with the Hawks for the Central Division lead and they’re unbelievably fun. Led by the league’s best scoring tandem in Benn and Seguin. the Stars have an aggressive offense, generating oodles of shots and globs of goals. They look a lot like the pre-2011 Capitals, really.

We all recall how those scoar-moar-goals Caps got handled in the postseason, but their dominance in the 82-game regular season was undeniable. In 2009-2010, they earned 121 standings points. Only the 2005-2006 Red Wings ever did better, with 124.

But here comes the 2015-16 Capitals, who are on pace for 128 standings points. They could become the most dominant regular-season team of the post-lockout era, which would be a tremendous feat, but it still wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans if they allow themselves to be dominated by a team like the Stars in the playoffs.

In this week’s snapshot, first of all, hi, it’s me, Peter, because Pat’s at the beach, but also, let’s talk about how the league’s most successful team might change over these final 30 games.

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Rolling the Rock: Week 16 Snapshot

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

The snapshot is back. We took a two-week hiatus because the Caps played one game over a 74-year period due to the snow and the John Scott Game break. But alas, we are back.

February is the dog days of the hockey season. The excitement of the start of the season has long since worn off, the holidays and Winter Classic have passed, and now we’re waiting for the stretch run and the playoffs. If ever there is a time in a hockey season that a team’s going to be on autopilot as a response to the monotony, this is the time.

If monotony has begun to strike the Caps, you wouldn’t know it from the results, as they are 7-2-1 in their last 10. They’ve found a way to keep rolling the rock. And, more often than not, when the rock returns to the bottom of the hill, two points are in tow.

Let’s do the numbers. They are current as of the completion of Saturday’s win over the Devils.

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Andre Burakovsky Has Awoken From His Slumber

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Photo: Patrick Smith

Andre Burakovsky was one the Caps’ most effective and productive forwards in 2014-15 when he was given the chance to produce. Expectations were high for the Austrian-born Swedish winger entering this season with many people, including myself, expecting great things. And then, nothing happened. Literally, nothing happened. Burakovsky had been invisible for long stretches of games this season, going 25 games without a goal between October 23 and December 30.

When Burakovsky scored on December 30, nothing ceased happening and everything began to happen. That is, the Burakovsky of 2014-15 re-emerged to remind us all to not forget about Dre. In the 12 games since then, and especially in the 10 games since his promotion to the second line, young Dre has shown an increase in confidence and production that leaves reason to believe the dynamic player from last season might be a reliable offensive weapon moving forward in 2015-16.

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