To be considered a winner, you have to act like one, which sometimes means moves off the ice are just as important as on. Based on this definition, the Washington Capitals are not at that level.
On trade deadline day, the Capitals stayed put and filed to make any new acquisitions and did not move a single person. After losing two games by four goals or more - to both Carolina and Florida - it seemed the Capitals would need to shore up either their defense or goaltending. They were unable to do that however and expected us to accept Brian Pothier’s reactivation as basically the same thing.
The simple answer: it isn’t. Both have been their weakest link all season. Many of their tough losses to key opponents have been because the defense hasn’t been able to clear the puck or Theodore has broken down.
Many teams are able to turn to their back-up netminder if their starter isn’t playing so well. The Capitals can’t really do that going into the playoffs, however, as their proven No. 2 - Brent Johnson - is out for the rest of the year after hip surgery. Instead, rookies Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are backing Theodore up.
The strategy worked through their first four starts, but Tuesday night we saw why it won’t be able to carry the team. Theodore suddenly came down with the flu and Neuvirth was informed when he got to the arena that he was starting. That is a hard thing for a rookie to handle, and it showed as he let in five goals on just 30 shots. Veteran backups are always able to jump into the game whenever needed including in the playoffs.
Moving beyond the fact that General Manager George McPhee didn’t acquire anyone, we arrive at how he didn’t move anyone. The Caps signed Michael Nylander back in 2007 to a four-year $19.5 million dollar contract - and he has yet to consistently be in the lineup.
The center has shown almost no production valuable production during his time here in D.C. During his time here in Washington, he as accumulated a plus/minus rating of -16.
Coach Bruce Boudreau has tried everything to up his production. He has even placed him on the top line opposite Alex Ovechkin on the wing.
Nylander’s salary puts the team right up against the salary cap. As a result, the Capitals cannot call up any players from the AHL. This wouldn’t be a problem if Nylander was adding something to the team but unfortunately he is not. Due to their cap problems, the Capitals can’t call up defenseman Karl Alzner, who spent some time here when it seem like half the team was injured.
The plus side of adding Alzner is not only that he adds depth to the blue line but he also makes Milan Jurcina look better. Jurcina, who is a good defenseman, has yet to find his place on the ice. It seems that whenever Alzner is with the team, he feels more comfortable.
McPhee must see something in his team that no one else does. While he said he attempted to get Chris Pronger, it just doesn’t seem to be enough. He needed to give Nylander away.
Last year, the Capitals pulled off a major deal acquiring Sergei Fedorov and Cristobal Huet, who helped them reach the playoffs. There were high expectations that something similar would have come out them yesterday. They chose not to play the game and as we know, you cannot win if you don’t play.