Monday, February 04, 2008

Monday, Monday

Welcome back! I trust everyone had a lovely Super Bowl Sunday (such as it was) - if you're like me you probably only paid attention during the last five minutes of the game and maybe some of the commercials...only to discover that you would have been better off ignoring it all together. Hey, I hear they were showing chick flicks on every other channel...

Now that football season is over it would be reasonable to suggest that the focus would now fully shift from the NFL to the sports that are actually in the middle of their regular seasons. The key word there, of course, is reasonable.

Around here we'll probably still get a fair amount of football news - the Redskins search for Joe Gibbs' replacement continues, which means every night we'll be treated to a half hour on how...the Redskins' search continues. Hard-hitting coverage right there.

At any rate, let's get back to talking about the one thing we're concerned with at the moment, and that is the Caps. The big news in town today is that Eric Fehr, longtime member of the IR club, has been called up to provide some much needed scoring. In the last three games the Caps have been shut out twice, with the only offense in the rogue game essentially coming from Alex Ovechkin.

This team has become exactly what it needs to not be - a one-line wonder. If your top line is the only one scoring, the other team only has to shut down three players and float through the rest. Ovechkin is talented and can break through a lot of defensive systems, but come up against a hot goalie like Huet on Tuesday or Lehtonen over the weekend and you get exactly what happened.

I'm excited to see Fehr back in DC. He was just starting to heat up and learn how to play in the NHL when he returned to Hershey for the playoff drive and then developed his mystery injury, but all reports have said that he looks good. If he can pan out that gives us yet another young prospect making a splash on this team, something that is quickly becoming same old same old here in Washington.

It looks like Fehr'll be added to that increasingly young, increasingly high draft pick top line to play with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Kozlov takes his hot hands down to center the second line and fill a role that, to this point, neither Laich nor Gordon has been able to fill consistently. That frees them up for third and fourth line duty and maybe gives a rest to Fleischmann or Pettinger in the process.

While the top line has been clicking along at a great pace lately, it's hard to find fault with this. As much as I, er, like Laich, he doesn't quite have the grit or the vision of the ice to center free-wheeling wingers like Fleischmann and Semin. And Gordon has grit to spare but lacks the finish of a second line center.

Kozlov's presence adds both size and the ability to find an open man or open ice, often in creative or even jaw-dropping ways. Say what you will about him being a "disappointment" this year in the goal-scoring department, and you could say a lot, but the man knows how to pass. That much has been consistent.

One moment from the Thrashers game stuck out to me as quintessentially Kozlov, and proof that he is in my mind still worth every penny. It was a simple breakout pass, up the wing to a streaking Ovechkin, and rather than hitting him directly with it Kozlov shot it at the boards behind him, having it deflect off at such an angle that both puck and Ovechkin reached the same point at the same time - behind the defender. It allowed Ovechkin to avoid being stripped of the puck while trying to carry it past the D himself and set up a scoring chance. A simple play, yes...but a smart one.

So we pair Kozlov up with Semin and Laich, Fleischmann or Pettinger on that second line, which gives us Boudreau's favorite combo of grit and flair. Keep that third line (which is quickly becoming one of my favorites) of Laing, Steckel and Bradley, and then use Brashear and Gordon with another rotation on wing for the fourth line. The result, hopefully, is the elusive beast of secondary scoring.

And of course should Fehr work out we're then faced with a new problem, and that is a sudden glut of right-wingers. Clark will, hopefully, make his return to the lineup at some point before April. At that time the roster will be overcrowded and someone has to go, and conceivably the players on the outside looking in are Fleischmann and Pettinger.

While Flash is an RFA at the end of this year, he's also a bargain at about $500K with little chance of a costly raise - he's also scoring goals occasionally, something Pettinger has struggled with for some reason this year. Pettinger has one more year on a contract that will pay him a little over a million dollars next season before becoming a UFA.

As much as it pains me to say it, Pettinger's long history with the Caps may be coming to an end.

Check back in later as we preview tomorrow night's long-awaited match up with the mighty Blue Jackets of Columbus. In the meantime feel free to discuss anything I might have missed, your thoughts on Fehr's return, your questions of why the Caps couldn't score with Ken Klee and Alexei Zhitnik on the ice (at the same time nonetheless)...go nuts.


DMG said...

I think part of what's good about this move is the timing. It's enough to see if Fehr can have an impact before the trade deadline. Then, if the Caps still need another top 6 forward, McPhee could look to make a deal.

Jimmy Jazz said...

Sadly, the Superbowl and football in general isn't even a good excuse to get wasted and act like an idiot. I had some great steak, though.

Shmee said...

You summed it all up perfectly. We need another line to be scoring and if can get rid of Pettinger and get something in return...that just might be happening. Sad, because based on his history, he should be able to get 15 goals a year which is what a third liner needs to be doing.

Victor said...

YES! Someone else who feels Kozlov is awesome!