Capitals Player Report Card: Dennis Wideman

Dennis Wideman

Stats:  GP 14, Goals 1, Assists 6, Points 7, +/- 7, PIM 6
2010-11 Contract:  $3,937,500 (Signed for one more year)

Player Card

Scoring Chance% Ranking: 4/29
Defensemen: 1/10
Balanced Corsi Ranking Among Defensemen:  5/10

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the Caps didn’t have much need for a puck-moving defenseman like Wideman. Considering the team was coming off a year where they had the best powerplay unit in the league, had one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the NHL in Mike Green and an up-and-coming all-around defenseman in John Carlson already on the team. That and much of the focus this year was put on team defense and penalty killing, so if you would have told me that George McPhee was going to trade for Dennis Wideman at the trade deadline, I would have told you that you were insane. Over the course of the year, the powerplay lost a lot of steam, Green was always hurt and so was Tom Poti, meaning that Carlson was the only healthy blue-liner who could move the puck. Thus, McPhee was able to snag Wideman from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jake Hauswirth and 3rd round pick. I said that trade was a steal at the deadline and I stand by that notion because Wideman has helped in a lot of ways and more than just the powerplay during his short time in Washington.

Wideman was someone who surpassed my expectations when he arrived because I thought we would use him similar to how Boston did as an offensive defenseman but he did it all for Washington. He was playing 20+ minutes a night and had responsibilities on both the powerplay and penalty kill. Having him here really took the burden off younger players like Carlson and Alzner. In only 16 games as a Capital, he blocked 26 shots, delivered 20 hits and contributed seven points from the blue line. For a defenseman, that’s pretty solid. An interesting thing is that his player card says he faced weaker competition this year than he did with Boston but I’m assuming it’s factoring in his stats from Florida, which would make sense.

Wideman was maintaining a good corsi rating on an awful Panthers team, and continued to do as such for the Caps and it appeared he gave the team just what they needed with Green’s return and the playoffs drawing closer. Then it was on that fateful game against the Carolina Hurricanes where a collision with Tuommo Ruutu resulted in Wideman suffering from a gruesome leg injury which turned out to be hematoma. He was obviously out indefinitely and missed all of the playoffs as a result. The powerplay was 11-48 ever since he (and Jason Arnott) were acquired so I have to think that the Tampa series would have gone a little differently if he was healthy.

Wideman was prone to the occasional blunder and when they happened, the puck ended up being in our net. Most of htem were due to him losing an edge in the neutral zone or overskating a puck which gift-wrapped chances for other teams but Boston (and Florida) fans had warned us that those would come with Wideman’s game. Overall, I was happy with the acquisition and pleased with how his performance in a Caps sweater so I’m going to give him a solid B for this season. I would have liked for him to have some more points but the powerplay looked noticeably better after his arrival when it came to passing the puck and generating chances. You can tell that by his sturdy scoring chance percentage of 56.85%. I am happy that we have him under contract for another season BUT McPhee adding him to the payroll certainly doesn’t make Tom Poti’s contract extension look any better. Not that $2.5 mil for him is terrible but I would like to have Wideman and Scott Hannan back on the team next year instead of just one of them if you know what I’m saying.

Capitals Player Report Card: Brooks Laich

Brooks Laich

Stats: GP 82, Goals 16, Assists 32, Points 48, +/- 14, PIM 46
Player Card 

2010-11 contract: $2,066,667 (Pending UFA next season)
Scoring Chance% Rank: 9/29
Forwards: 6/19
Balanced Corsi Ranking Among Forwards:  5/19

Looking at the basic stats, it appears that Laich had a down year compared to recent seasons. He didn’t break 20 goals for the first time since the 2006-07 year and had his lowest point total since then. Laich played in all 82 games and got top-six minutes on almost every nights as well as time on the powerplay, so it’s not like he wasn’t getting his chances. With the kind of year that this team had offensively compared to last season, it’s becoming a trend that just about every top-six forward had a “down season” in terms of production. Still, many fans would think that Laich would have a better year offensively considering he is a pending unrestricted free agent. Those who are disappointed with his point production often overlook Laich’s defensive game which makes him a lot more valuable to the Caps than some would think.

Laich’s points per sixty minutes may have dropped from 2.12 to 1.86 but his goals allowed per 60 minutes also dropped, and pretty dramatically when you look at it. 2.43 GA/60 last year and only 1.69 this season. He also had a much higher corsi rating than last season and his relative corsi was especially higher which showed how good he is at preventing chances in his own zone. Although part of that might be because he got more offensive zone starts this year compared to past seasons, but he still did well with the ice time he was given. He also faced tougher competition this season when compared to previous years.

Laich was also the most used forward on the penalty kill and was on ice for four shorthanded goals for the Caps this season (and even scored one himself), while being on ice for 11 powerplay goals against. His production on the powerplay was disappointing considering he scored 12 goals with the man advantage last season and only four this year. He was switched around a lot on the powerplay unit, though. Sometimes he was down low and other nights he was playing the point, and he did a pretty good job at it as he had 9 assists on the powerplay.

That brings me to my next point about Laich, he’s proven to be a very versatile player for the Caps. He was drafted as a natural center but spend most of the last few years as a left winger since he has seemed to be more of a goal scorer who drives the net than a playmaker. This year, he played a lot at center and on the wing, mostly after Tomas Fleischmann was traded. Laich was 51.3% effective on faceoffs this year, too and did well at winning battles along the boards to help the team out a lot possession wise. He also had the fourth most hits on the team with 113.

My grade for Laich on the year is a B- because he proved himself to be helpful and valuable to this team in a lot of ways that didn’t show up on the scoresheet.  He was a huge part in the penalty kill and the team’s morale and I wont overlook that. Even if he isn’t scoring, he is showing how good he is in a lot of other ways and it is a reason why he is one of the most sought after free agents this summer. Laich’s established himself as a great two-way player who can definitely get back to 20 goals in next season so the Caps will have to re-sign him sometime before July if they want him to stick around. His leadership qualities are also something that will make Washington want to re-sign him, but how much do they feel he’s worth. I could see him easily get $3.5 mil from a team willing to overpay considering how thin the free agent pool is this year. Personally, I feel that he’s worth about $2.5-3 mil and we might see how much of a “team guy” he is by what kind of offer he accepts this summer. The biggest complaint I have is that his playoff performance was pretty underwhelming.

Capitals Player Report Card: Boyd Gordon

Boyd Gordon

Stats: GP 60, Goals 3, Assists 6, Points 9, Rating -5, PIM 16

Player Card

Scoring Chance% Ranking: 27/29
Forwards: 18/19
Balance Corsi Ranking Forwards: 10/18

2010-11 Contract: $800,000
Pending UFA next season

Boyd Gordon’s always been somewhat of a fan favorite in Washington. It’s known that a lot of “hardcore” fans of teams are attracted to the players who do the “little things” to win games. Gordon is a guy who takes a lot of tough draws, kills penalties and hustles and his hard work is admired a lot among fans who recognize players for this. Same reason why Detroit fans love guys like Kris Draper and Darren Helm. Gordon hasn’t quite lived up to his expectations as a first round draft pick from 2002, but he is a valuable part of this team and a key part of their bottom-six for the past few years.

When grading Gordon’s performance, we’ll have to look to see how he did on the penalty kill. He was on ice for 13 shorthanded goals, which was the most among forwards but expected when you have the 2nd most ice time 4-on-5 for that position. At even strength, he was on ice for 2.18 goals per 60 minutes which isn’t bad but not exactly something you would want from someone who specializes in defense. It should be also noted that Gordon faced the toughest competition nightly among forwards and was the anchor of the team’s “shutdown line.”

Gordon really began to stand out once David Steckel was traded away. While he isn’t as good as Steckel at face-offs, he still had a very good 58% efficiency rate and many of his draws were in the defensive zone. In fact, I think that his play made Steckel expandable since the team had two guys with limited offensive abilities who could play center and kill penalties? What made the team want to keep Gordon instead? He’s cheaper and a more effective penalty killer. He proved to be just as good as Steckel at face-offs after his departure, too. While his regular corsi number might be negative 8 but when taking into consideration that he took 57% of his draws in his own zone, he actually came up with a balanced corsi rating, which is impressive for a grinder like him. Just look at his stats in the playoffs, saw tough competition, buried with defensive zone starts, won 68.8% of his faceoffs and only on ice for one goal at even strength (three overall). Impressive.

There are two major knocks on Gordon’s game. He isn’t much of an offensively capable player and he is always hurt. This year, he had his lowest career point total since 2006 but played in 60 games. He missed a good chunk of time in January and was scratched a few times, as well but he still played in 24 games more than last season.

When considering what you expect of Gordon, he lived up to them for the most part. Played in a majority of games, killed penalties relatively well, did great at face-offs and was a key part of the team’s bottom-six. I’m going to give him a C+ on the year because he lived up to my expectations and for his great play after Steckel was traded. I was hoping that he would put up more than 9 points though, which is why I’m giving him a C+ instead of a B-. That and some of his goals against numbers weren’t too good. I would like to have him re-signed for next season as the team’s fourth line center but I don’t think he should too much of a raise on the 800k he’s already making. The Caps might want to look into getting someone like Gordon via free agency, though. Only someone who can put up more than 10 points in a season and can kill penalties too. Someone like Marty Reasoner, Jay McClement or Dave Bolland comes to mind even though I have no idea if any of those are available. Something to look into this summer!

Favorite Moment of the Year

Washington Capitals Report Card: Braden Holtby

Braden Holtby

Stats:  GP 14, GS 12, 10-2-2, SV% .934, GAA 1.79, SO 2
EV Save% .930, SAA 2.47, z-score .21

Player Card

Holtby may have been my biggest surprise this season. I knew he was putting up decent numbers in the ECHL and in Hershey last year but I didn’t think that Washington would need to have him play in so many games this year. I was expecting Holtby to be only called-up on an emergency basis but I should figured that he was going to play in a few games soon enough with how often Neuvirth and Varlamov were hurt. I am not going to lie, I was never that high on Holtby before and how he performed in his first call-up didn’t exactly make things better. After that? I was just floored by what he did in late January and through a good portion of March. He really exemplified how much talent the Caps have at goaltender in their system now and why trading/overpaying for one would be stupid in every way possible.

As you can see from Holtby’s stats, he performed very well at the NHL level with a save percentage of over .930 and two shutouts to boot. However, he didn’t start off that well. His first call-up included two awful outings against Atlanta and New Jersey (albeit, he also had decent games against Boston, Philly and Buffalo during that tenure, as well) and had many people (myself included) that it would be the last time we saw Holtby in a Caps uniform. Then injuries to Varlamov and Neuvirth occurred which required him to play a few games in January where he allowed only three goals on 90 shots in a three game stretch including a 35 save performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night In Canada. Unfortunately, his aggressive style of play was exposed during a shootout in the Rangers where he was deked out of his pads by Wojtek Wolski and Mats Zuccarrello. However, he showed vast improvement in a later shootout against Tampa Bay, stopping all three shooters and delivering this now golden moment.

Holtby was victorious in all six games of his third call-up and allowing only six goals on 158 shots. He also earned his first two NHL shutouts in games against the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. Granted, he was not tested much in either of those games as he only had to make 22 saves against the Oil and 18 against the Habs. While Holtby’s numbers are undeniably impressive, I can’t help but me a tad skeptical of how he will perform in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I like just about everything I have seen from him but a .934 save percentage from a 22 year old goalie is going to obviously regress. So will his .942 save percentage on the penalty kill. He does look like he can be a solid goalie for this team very soon but I wouldn’t let Varlamov to promote Holtby full-time just yet. Although, it might be better for him to get more NHL playing time sooner rather than later.

For a grade on this year, I’m giving Holtby an A-. The minus is for the two really, really bad games, but he deserves the A for sure. I said all year that goaltending was one of the last things I was worried about with this team and his play (along with Neuvy and Varly’s) proved that. He had to bail the team out in quite a few games this year and surpassed just about every expectation I had for him.  We are lucky to have this kind of talent in the system.

Favorite Moment of the Year

Washington Capitals Player Report Card: Andrew Gordon

Andrew Gordon

Stats: GP 9, Goals 1, Assists 1, Points 2, Rating -2, PIM 0
Contract:
2010-11 cap hit $500,000, pending UFA

Player Card

Scoring Chance % Ranking: 20/29
Forwards: 12/19
Balance Corsi Ranking: N/A

Gordon only played nine games in Washington this season so I won’t give him a grade on his performance because it’s such a small sample size. However, I will look back at what he did for the Caps this season and what his future is with the team. Gordon is a fringe-NHL player who is only called up wen the Caps have a lot of injuries to their forward corps. That was the case in late December for Washington and Gordo got most of his playing time there. While he was here, he made quite an impact in Washington’s game against New Jersey where he notched his first NHL goal and also recorded an assists en route to a 5-1 win. After that, not much to say. He played less than 10 minutes in all but two games and was only called up to be an energy/role player. Pretty different from the goal scoring role that he has with Hershey where he had another good season there notching 28 goals and 54 points.

One thing I love about small sample sizes is how inflated some players stats look when they’ve only played a few games. Gordon did a good job at moving the puck in the right direction even with a lot of starts in his own zone during his short time in the NHL. It’s about what you can expect from a player like him who tries to make the most of his call-ups.

Now here’s a few things to speculate regarding him; Would the Caps be better off keeping him on the roster instead of other fringe guys they had like say, Jay Beagle or even Tyler Sloan? Debatable. While Gordon has a lot more offensive skill-set than Beagle, he likely wouldn’t get to use it that much in the NHL getting bottom-six minutes. He’s a top-six player in Hershey and would get more time to develop down there. Also, Beagle’s defensive and physical game is slightly better than Gordon’s, which gives him more value as a bottom-six player in Washington. They are both the same age, but Gordon had more of a role on the Bears than Beagle or Sloan did, so that is likely why he spent most of the year there.

Next year Gordon is an UFA, so he can decide starting on July 1st if he wants to sign with another club, likely one with a lack of forward depth, that will give him a shot at earning a roster spot for next year. My thought is that teams with weak forward depth, particularly at winger (Oilers, Blues, Panthers and a few others come to mind) and they could give him a shot. His career could work out like many others where his game doesn’t translate well enough to the NHL and he will be a life-long AHL-er (see Krog, Jason) or he will take his skills elsewhere (see Bourque, Chris). I hope the best for him either way. It’s likely that he could be back in Hershey again if they want him back enough or the Caps feel that there’s a fit for him in the organization, which is a possibility. Anyway, his grade is an incomplete since it’s unfair to grade a player for only playing 9 games.

When he scored his first goal and kissed Marcus Johansson was probably one of my favorite moments of the season, though. Nothing I love more than seeing a kid score his first NHL goal.

Watching that makes me smile every time.

Washington Capitals Player Report Card: Alex Semin

Alex Semin

Stats: GP 28, Goals 28, Assists 26, Points 54, +/- 22, PIM 71

Player Card

Scoring Chance Rank: 2/29
Forwards: 2/19
Balance Corsi Rank: 4/29
Forwards: 4/19

Alex Semin has had the reputation of being a streaky player ever since arriving in Washington. Caps fans never know which version of him they will get on a given night; either the “Good Sasha” who plays hard and showcases his enormous amount of offensive talent or the “Bad Sasha” who takes bad offensive zone penalties, glides back to the bench for line-changes and generally plays lazy. This season, the Caps got a lot of both Good and Bad Sasha and it seemed to come in bunches.

During the first two months of the season, it looked like Semin had finally figured things out and was becoming more of a complete player. He had 18 goals and 30 points at the end of November along with three hat tricks and even taking responsibilities on the penalty kill. Then December came and he proceeded to go the entire month without a goal, missed most of January with an injury, and then netted a hat-trick against Anaheim on February 16th which was the first time he scored in nearly three months. Like I said, everything comes in bunches with him and it’s not always a good thing. After getting off to such a strong start, many thought that Semin would lead the team in goals and set a career high in goals by the end of the season. He finished with only 28 goals, which isn’t bad but it is for someone who scored 40 the previous season and had 18 of those 28 goals in the first two months of the season.

Despite the scoring drought, you can not deny that this team was missing a lot while he was injured. The team was struggling to score more than three goals a game while he was out and they were shutout four times. There was also a huge void on the second line that Boudreau had to grasp at straws to fill.  When Semin goes through one of his slumps, it’s easy to forget that he led the Caps in scoring chacne percentage among those who were on the team the entire year. He also only trailed Nicklas Backstrom in balanced corsi, showing that the team was a lot better offensively when he was in the lineup. While the stats say that he played with weaker teammates than previous seasons, he actually spent more time on the first line than anything this year. You can make a case that what he had as his second line center before Arnott arrived were weak, though. The team was missing his scoring and creativity while he was injured, but they were missing it for most of December, as well…..when he was healthy. One other category Semin led the team in? Penalties taken. 1.5 per 60 minutes. Ouch.

Something that’s also easy to forget is that the Caps never lost in regulation whenever Sasha scored, but the folks at Russian Machine Never Breaks looked into that a little further to see how much Semin’s goals really contributed to the team winning. As it turned out, it wasn’t much as Semins scored a lot when the team was already ahead or trailing.

The thing Semin is criticized the most for is his playoff performances and he somewhat shook off that reputation this year. He had that huge game-winning goal against the Rangers and scored in three consecutive games but there were definitely plenty of “Bad Sasha” moments to go around. Mainly in the last three games of the Tampa series where he only had six shots on goal total in those games. Your best players have to be your best in the playoffs and Semin was…but only in a few games.

Like Ovechkin (and every other player), I’m going to be grading based on expectation and considering that Semin is making $6 mil this season, I think it’s fair to expect at least 30 goals from him. He just missed that mark, but of course, you have to consider that he was injured for about a month. Just like you have to consider that he didn’t score a goal for an entire month, too. Most of the stats I presented show how important he is to this team, which makes it even worse when he goes into one of his slumps and how much it hurts the team. George McPhee elected to keep Semin around for at least one more year at $6.7 mil which seems like a lot but it is better to have him signed to that for one year rather than a multi-year deal. You could view this as his “last chance” but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick around. I am going to give him a C+ for the year. The Semin of the first two months was nice to have but unfortunately, he didn’t stick around for that long. We know that he has the talent and ability to live up to his expectations and he does that…sometimes. That’s the problem.

Bruins-Lightning Game 6 Scoring Chances

Despite the 5-4 score, this was another defensive struggle and Tampa came up on the winning end of it again. The Lightning won this game because they torched Boston with the man advantage (3-4 on the powerplay). Tampa has not been getting that many chances on the powerplay this series but it is a known that they are better than Boston in that field by a long shot. Having the advantage in the special teams battle can go a long way, especially when your goaltending is struggling. Guy Boucher received a lot of grief for starting Mike Smith in game 5 to “rest” Dwayne Roloson and while Roloson’s team won, he wasn’t that good in net. Let in 4 goals on 20 shots, and one of which wasn’t even from a scoring chance area. I know that there is a 100% chance that Roloson starts the next game but it is interesting to see that Mike Smith has been better than him in this series despite the latter having an awful season. Maybe age and fatigue is setting in for Roli?

*Note: There should be another PP chance for the Bruins in the first period.

The scoring chances by period pretty much display what I was talking about earlier. Tampa turned it on in the 2nd period while Boston fell asleep and they didn’t let up after that. Special teams and goaltending have been one thing, but you’ll see below that Boston’s lack of depth and talent on the blue line might be what’s killing the Bruins more.

Bruins Scoring Chances by Player

Best EV Forward:
Milan Lucic +1

Worst EV Forwards:
Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, Marc Recchi, Brad Marchand -2

Best EV Defensemen:
Tomas Kaberle, Andew Ference EVEN

Worst EV Defensemen:
Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg -2

Lucic-Krejci-Horton have all been struggling all series but they were Boston’s most productive line offensively last night, something that’s good news if you’re a Bruins fan. The bad news? They gave up just as many chances at the other end of the rink and Bergeron’s line was terrible. It seems that these two lines never click at the same time. It’s also bad that Tomas Kaberle and Andrew Ference were their best defensemen at even strength because both gave up as many chances as they had, Ference being AWFUL on the penalty kill. Who else was bad? Johnny Boychuk. Actually that’s being nice. He was abysmal and he’s been on ice for 11 of Tampa’s 21 goals this series. Notice his terrible pinch on Martin St. Louis’ goal in the third period. It is humorous how Tomas Kaberle’s been the one taking the most flack from Boston fans when Boychuk has been much worse and with less ice time. This Bruins defense has been suspect all series and things completely fell out of line in this game with them trying to rely on Tim Thomas to steal another game for them. He’s capable of doing that but it’s become apparent that he can’t do it every game. Every one of these six players need to be better, especially the top pairing of Chara and Seidenberg.

Lightning Scoring Chances by Player

Best EV Forwards
Simon Gagne, Vinny Lecavalier +3

Worst EV Forwards
Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis -2

Best EV Defenseman:
Mike Lundin +4

Worst EV Defenseman:
Eric Brewer -4

I don’t know what is wrong with Eric Brewer but it’s good for Tampa Bay that their other defensemen are picking up the slack. Lundin was very impressive for sure and Brett Clark didn’t allow a scoring chance at even strength all game. Also of note is that Stamkos and St. Louis had the worst rating scoring chance wise but both scored and were super dangerous on the poweplay. Lecavalier, Gagne and Purcell were the Bolts best players, though. Purcell is continuing to make Bruins and Kings fans lives miserable this series. The depth of this Tampa squad is showing and so is the lack of depth on the Bruins.

Head-to-Head

Just about every line for Boston got dominated, except for Lucic-Krejci-Horton while Tampa had a good showing from Purcell-Lecavalier-Gagne. Chara-Seidenberg didn’t get the better of Tampa’s first line and Boychuk-Ference were dominated by Lecavalier’s line. The only Boston defenseman who had a somewhat good night was Kaberle. If Boston wants to take Game 7, they better hope they get this kind of effort from their first line and a much better effort from pretty much everyone else on the team. Sure, Thomas can stand on his head and they win 1-0 but it is looking unlikely that it will happen against this Bolts team which is coming off a very strong performance. However, the Lightning better hope that they get the Dwayne Roloson of the first two rounds even if they can out-score their opponents.