Mike Green needs help (Rick Stewart/Getty Images).
This week, the Caps free agent picture became clearer as the organization announced they will not be renewing the contracts of defenseman Joe Corvo and forwards Brendan Morrison and Scott Walker, and Tarik El-Bashir reported that José Theodore‘s tenure with the Washington Capitals may be over.
All this leads to more speculation as to what the roster will look like next year. ESPN and the writers of Puck Prospectus have addressed the offseason needs for all 30 NHL teams and surprised no one by stating that the Caps need a shutdown guy on defense.
The Bruins signed defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a four-year contract extension, taking off a likely target unrestricted free agent acquisition during the offseason and leaving only a few top four shutdown defensemen left in the UFA pool.
The Caps need as close to a sure thing as you can get. They can’t afford to let age (Sergei Gonchar) or injuries (Paul Martin, Willie Mitchell, and Mark Eaton) detract from the production of their top four defensemen during next year’s inevitable Cup run.
With Tarik El-Bashir reporting “the team does not, in fact, plan to pursue the Ottawa blue liner [Volchenkov],” that leaves just two defensemen that can fill a Top 4 spot. And more specifically, the top pairing with Mike Green:
Funny isn’t it that the Capitals and Bruins will meet twice in the last week of the regular season before playing one another in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If tonight’s game sets a precedence for next week, we’re due for some entertaining hockey.
Tonight’s victory over Boston saw goals from fan favorites Nicky Backstrom, Mike Knuble and Books Laich, who secured the overtime gamewinner. Despite the everpresent physicality of Zdeno Chara’s bleeding nose and the dynamism of Patrice Bergeron, the Caps emerged victorious. Three games or bust.
In just a few hours, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will face off for the second-t0-last time ever before the playoffs in a few weeks. The stakes are not as high as they have been– both teams are sure things for the post-season, D.C.’s win streak has ended, and NBC’s Pierre McGuire won’t be leaving drool streaks on the glass barrier between him and the Pens bench. Still, any meeting between these two rivals guarantees an exciting game. Except that one time. But unfortunately, both squads have modified their lines to accommodate injured players. And when our hockey heroes cannot play, we must toast their immortal memory in a feature we like to call… Russian Machine Sometimes Breaks!
Some of the Caps’ best games this season have been against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and tonight was no exception. Marking Captain Alexander Ovechkin‘s return after suspension, tonight’s bout with the Bolts gave us hits, goals, fights, and — for once– a team that looked truly solid.
Goals from Tomas Fleischmann, the Russian Machine himself, and Alex Semin lifted the Caps above the Tampa Bay team, but the glory of the win must belong to the most excellent Jose Theodore. Stopping all but one of the 34 shots aimed at his net, Jose made tonight’s 3-1 victory possible.
The Washington Capitals added depth on NHL Deadline Day, acquiring forwards Scott Walker and Eric Belanger, and blueliners Joe Corvo and Milan Jurcina, who returns to Washington after being traded, along with then team captain Chris Clark, to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite these moves paying off immediate dividends, questions remain about the Caps goaltending: specifically, is it enough to keep pucks out of the net in the playoffs?
“No matter how fearsome their attack, they’re just OK at keeping pucks out of their net. They’ll enter the playoffs, likely as the top seed in the East, entrusting the most critical position on the ice to the likes of Jose Theodore, Semyon Varlamov and/or Michal Neuvirth.” – NBCSports.com
So what type of goaltending does it take to win the Cup, and do the Caps have it?
In their first game with the Capitals, Scott Walker, Joe Corvo, and Eric Belanger got a close-up look at what we’ve been seeing all season: The Caps play the most exciting breed of hockey in the league. In tonight’s narrow win over Tampa Bay, the home team battled through a series of staggered goals, a lengthy penalty snit fit, Mike Green’s gigantic floating head and quiet play from the team’s stars to beat the division rivals.
[Editor’s note: Russian Machine Never Breaks is proud to announce the addition of Neil Greenberg to the fold. You might remember Neil from his excellent statistical analysis over at 5ive Hole, which he will continue to maintain. Please join us in welcoming Neil. Play nice.]
The trade deadline came and went, and while the Caps made some changes, a lot stayed the same. Most importantly: Hershey was virtually untouched. And it is probably because of this that the Caps didn’t make the “big move” most of the fans thought they would.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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