Capitals Month In Review: February

I’m having a difficult time figuring out if February was a good or bad month for the Washington Capitals. On one hand, they had a winning record of 6-5-1 but that isn’t a huge improvement over how they did the last two months. They also had a huge win on the road against Tampa Bay and shut out Pittsburgh twice. They were also shutout twice this month, one of which was in embarrassing fashion to the Rangers. Basically, there were a lot of ups and downs in February for the Caps but earlier in the week, GM George McPhee made a couple pretty big trades to fill some needs the team has had for awhile and when looking at how things went this month, you’ll see why certain players were moved.

Injuries weren’t as abundant as they were earlier in the season, but there were a few key ones. The most critical was to Mike Green after he took a Brooks Orpik shot to his ear in the third game of the month. He tried to come back shortly after the injury but he was wasn’t very effective and he ended up re-injuring his head after getting hit by Derek Stepan in the Rangers game. He missed 7 games this month and that along with Tom Poti being injured for all of February meant the team lacked a defenseman who could move the puck on the blue-line, which is why we acquired Dennis Wideman earlier in the week. It also adds to our defensive depth since Tyler Sloan played in the 7 games that Green was out for and hopefully with Wideman on the team, he shouldn’t play one game in March and April. Then again, it’s a rare occasion when this entire team is healthy.

The goal scoring has picked up a bit as the Caps scored 28 goals in February and about 2.33 per game. Not outstanding but definitely better than the 1.75 G/G they had last month. A good portion of that was probably inflated due to the Anaheim game where we scored 7, though. It is great to have Alex Semin back, that’s for sure. You can tell that we missed his goal scoring and creativity this month. However, we do not miss his occasional dumb plays and offensive zone penalties. One player that would be nice to have back is Eric Fehr, who missed the entire month and it’s looking like he won’t be back for awhile. He adds a lot to the third line and is a big factor on the team when it comes to secondary scoring. I have to think that’s why we acquired Marco Sturm last week. In the first couple of games, he has definitely jolted the third line a bit as I’ve seen them create more chances than I did for all of February.

The struggles with the powerplay continue as the Caps were only 5/40 with the man advantage last month. However, that’s better than they were in January and the team was definitely generating chances even though it sure as he didn’t look like it when watching most of the games. One problem suggested with the powerplay was that we weren’t getting enough chances (we only had 29 last month) but this time, that definitely isn’t an excuse. Not having a puck-moving defenseman on the team aside from John Carlson was an issue, though. The defensive corps had 44 shots combined. Mike Knuble had 34 shots by himself and Alex Ovechkin had 61 shots. I know that offense isn’t in Karl Alzner, Jeff Schultz and Scott Hannan’s job descriptions but when Schultz only has 3 shots on net for an entire month, then that’s kind of a problem. The acquisition of Wideman should take the pressure off Carlson and these three for producing offense while Green is out.

Speaking of Ovechkin, he was a point per game player last month and is looking more like the AO we know and love. 5 goals and 7 assists for him and hopefully he can be even better than that in March.

The defense was good on some nights and bad on others in February. Carlson and Alzner were on ice for more goals scored than any other d-men this month and have been making some rookie mistakes lately, which is expected since they are both young. Schultz also looked awful in a few games (the LA one in particular) and great in others while Green wasn’t exactly stellar either.The best defenseman on the team was Scott Hannan. He had the most blocked shots and skated over 20+ minutes in a lot of games this month, which is what we need from him. Also, just watch Schultz’s play when he’s paired with Hannan instead of Green. Kind of makes a difference.

What was said about the team in the beginning could also apply to the goaltenders. Michal Neuvirth had some of his best games of the season (Pitt, NYI) in February along with some of his worst (ANA, NYR). He finished with a save percentage of .919 and a 4-4-0 record, about above average. Semyon Varlamov was about the same only he only played in 4 games. He had strong games against Montreal and Buffalo and a terrible performance against Anaheim. He finished the month with a save percentage of .914 and is now hurt. Again. Neuvirth might have the upper-hand on Varlamov come playoff time if only for the fact that he has proved to be more durable but it’s still a little too early to say that.

Alright, time to single some people out:

Top Performers

Alex Ovechkin – see above. Maybe he will reach 40 goals after all? If he can have a few more offensive outbursts, then he might.

Scott Hannan – He was the most consistent defenseman on the team last month and he’s done just about all you can ask from him.

Brooks Laich – Minus his penalties, it was a great month from him. 4 goals, 3 assists, which is a nice rebound after a rough month of January for him. He’s also done great on the PK.¬† Wonder how he will do now that he has Jason Arnott feeding him the puck and not Mathieu Perreault.

Under Acheivers

John Carlson – I know I’ve been picking on him lately but he’s had a rough couple of weeks and was on ice for more goals than any other defenseman this month. Hopefully the addition of Wideman will help take the pressure off him a little.

Boyd Gordon – When you are on ice for 4 goals in a game with less than 10 minutes of ice time, that’s generally not a good thing. It’s especially not a good thing if you’re mainly a penalty killer like Boyd Gordon. Rough month for him but he was a solid 57% at the faceoff circle.

Jason Chimera – 3 points and a -6 on the month. Remember when he was on the first line? Yeah, me too.

Mathieu Perreault – Sent down to Hershey after failing to develop any consistency at the NHL level. He always had bursts of production and then would disappear for a few games and that’s how it was this month. I like him but if he’s still wasn’t the answer to our second line center problems because he’s too enigmatic.

Other Notable Performances

Jeff Schultz – Had one of the worst games I’ve seen from him in awhile against the Kings but didn’t have a bad month overall. Still don’t know how he managed to only have 3 shots on goal, though.

Nicklas Backstrom – Only 7 points but 57% effective at faceoffs.

Matt Bradley – Special mention for blowing up Matt Cooke and having a solid fight with Ryan Craig shortly after.

David Steckel – Traded to New Jersey for Jason Arnott. He also had a goal against the Ducks, fought Tim Wallace and was the team’s best face-off guy. The last one shouldn’t be a surprise.

Alexander Semin – Special mention for his hat trick and having the game winning goal against the Islanders. If he did more than that then didn’t commit brutal penalties then he would have been a top performer. Or am I just being a dick?


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