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Ovechkin, Capitals need to find joy again

Nov 26, 2011, 11:20 PM EDT

Washington Capitals v Phoenix Coyotes Getty Images

Before the Washington Capitals came to Buffalo to face the Sabres, Alex Ovechkin seemed like he was starting to get things back on track. The oft-criticized Caps captain scored three points and registered a +3 rating in his last three games. As usual with Washington, the bad times overshadow the higher moments, though.

Such a thought can be summarized in a simple stat line: Ovechkin failed to register a point while finishing with a hideous -4 rating tonight. To little surprise, Buffalo handled the rest of the team as they beat the Caps 5-1.

So many of you are asking: what’s wrong in Washington?

If you ask me, it’s a palpable lack of joy.

Look, I know that Bruce Boudreau is trying to be a tough guy. To some extent, he’s doing it to try to keep his job. One cannot begrudge him for that.

But really, it all goes back to last season’s square-peg-in-a-round-hole experiment to decelerate the offense. The Capitals abandoned their hard-charging style in favor of a more traditional mode, and in my opinion, they lost a bit of their soul in the process.

GM George McPhee made some great moves to help the team win the only way you supposedly can win, but I wonder if the real problem is that there’s a big cloud of misery hanging over that locker room.

Caps should go back to their attacking ways from before 2010-11

When Washington was at its best, they were playing a pace that gave other, slower teams heart attacks. The Phone Booth in DC was off the hook. Ovechkin was recklessly doing his own version of the Lambeau Leap into the boards and the Caps were satisfied with simply blowing the doors off of other teams. They didn’t grimace at every little mistake because the good heavily outweighed the bad.

Everyone wants to show that they can mold a supposedly unshaped lump of clay into a straightforward success. The reality is that 90 percent of the time, you shouldn’t try to change Tim Tebow’s throwing motion or generally ask someone to forget what made them good enough to become professionals. Instead, you just try to accentuate the positives and camouflage the weaknesses like a deft makeup artist.


That’s just my take, though. Surely there are more complicated things going on in DC – and 12-9-1 isn’t a full-scale disaster. It just seems like the Capitals are stuck in bad marriage right now, so maybe they should renew their vows with their old, far more fun ways.

  1. Stiller43 - Nov 27, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    Great time to be a pens fan living in northern va

    • capsrockva - Nov 27, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      Then go back to PA if it such a great place

  2. hockeyfan1701 - Nov 27, 2011 at 12:18 AM

    Don Cherry said tonight on Hockey Night he thinks Ovechekin’s style of play is catching up with him. Interesting thought.

    • stakex - Nov 27, 2011 at 1:35 AM

      Don Cherry is an idiot, and just wanted to pat himself on the back for a comment he made a couple years ago. Fact is, Ovechkin doesn’t look like his problem is a physical one… which would mean Cherry’s point is not only mood, but dead wrong.

      Perhaps Ovechkins struggles have more to do with Washingstons offensive issues the alst year an a half? Now THATS an interesting thought.

  3. govtminion - Nov 27, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I’d agree 100% with the article- the Caps were a fun team that obviously wasn’t perfect, but got the job done a couple of years ago. Letting in four goals a game isn’t a recipe for success usually, but when you score six yourselves… well, even Madden can do that math. And so it worked- why mess with the formula?

    I’m not sure why the Caps tried to go to a more defensive style last year, but it’s been a disaster for them- that’s not their style, and it shows. Instead of doing great offense and half-assed defense, now they play half-assed on both ends. And honestly, it’s pretty sad to watch.

  4. stakex - Nov 27, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    This is the first really good article I have read about the bad situation in Washington right now, and I completely agree with it.

    It does not take a genius to see that the Capitals have not been the same team since they changed their style. Sure they placed first in the east last year, but they did not look like a 1st place team for most of the season. One could argue that they placed first last year simply because the raw talent they had was able to overcome Boudreau’s in-effective system. One could also make the argument that Ovechkin’s offensive struggles could be linked to the current Washington system. After all, when was it that Ovechkin started to have issues? The start of last season when Boudreau started to force him into a more rounded role. Is there a connection? Idk, but I don’t like coincidences.

    The funny thing is that as we saw last year Washingston’s problems in the playoffs were not linked to their old system (which was supposedly the reason for the change). Their problem the last few years has been a lack of post-season production by key players like Semin/Green/Backstome… with a touch of poor goaltending thrown in. It had nothing to do with the system, and more to do with poor individual effort. Changing the system was never going to work to fix the problem. Instead, it has made the Capitals a far weaker team that simply looks lost.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… a coaching change is the only thing that can save the Caps now.

    • danphipps01 - Nov 27, 2011 at 8:22 PM

      Let’s follow that logic through, then – if they dump Boudreau, who do they replace him with? Most coaches in the NHL are more defensive than he is. There aren’t exactly a plethora of options.

  5. wheresdapuck - Nov 27, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    The entire energy of the Caps game against teh Sabres was dismal or perhaps worse. Even the break-outs were poorly executed! The passes across the blue-lines look like a pick-up game! The Caps have allowed three shorties in the last 3 games – that’s my mark that something has got to change and change quickly. The Caps took sub-par shots on goal last night – same thing I have seen the in playoffs. These are not well executed scoring chances – just throwing the puck up to see what will happen!

    P.S . Semin got a penalty last night that clearly was not a penalty – embellishment!

  6. dipthatchip - Nov 27, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    falling to a team that is missing 9 players due to injury is embarrassing. getting your shit kicked in 5-1 by said team is inexcusable.

    Not sure why they thought dumping the puck in when no one was skating hard enough to get to it first would work, but they tried it for a full 60.

    I’m really tired of Boudreau, seeing as none of the players want to work for him (or themselves for that matter) but I don’t really see anyone replacements out there that would be an improvement.

    Pending Green’s return, Ovi pulling his head out of his ass, and the netminders finding some confidence, maybe this team will turn it around…maybe.

  7. dowhatifeellike - Nov 27, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    I’m glad I don’t get the games where I live, because following the in-game updates on Twitter is hard enough. They’ve been outscored 33-13 in their last 7 and somehow still managed to win 2 of those. They’ve given up 3 or more goals in the last 8 games.

    Something needs to change and quickly if this team wants another shot at a playoff run.

  8. pdmjr - Nov 27, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Np problems for the Caps, they’re just biding time until the playoffs start

  9. bd0986 - Nov 27, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    For all those looking for the way the Caps played before Beaudreau got the team playing more defensively, just go back to the playoff loss against Montreal in 2010. Teams have figured out how to defend that style of play. Yes, Ovi will have a highlight reel every now and then. But he can’t defend if his life depended on it. Did you watch him standing still watching Adam’s goal last night? And that’s how the captain of this team performs? Do you think you’d ever see Ray Bourque or Steve Yzerman watch in awe like that? I don’t think so. Ovechkin’s the root of this issue and needs to go. Or at a minimum, strip the C from his jersey.

    • babykaby - Nov 27, 2011 at 2:04 PM

      You must not be a Caps fan. You probably support a team that would love to have Ovie.

  10. sf49erguy - Nov 27, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Alice the Great has burnt out.

  11. babykaby - Nov 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    Finally an article about the Caps I can agree with. The Capitals used to play with so much joy. It was fun to watch them have fun. Now it’s like a freaking funeral, there is no joy at all. Hell, they look like me going to my nine-to-five boring job that I hate. They don’t look like they love the game anymore. Go back to the old way of playing. Why bother drafting players for their particular skills and strengths if you aren’t going to play up to those skills and strengths. I think BB has/is making a huge mistake trying to change his players into something they aren’t. It doesn’t work. These players have worked since they were little kids to hone their particular skills. Use them, don’t ignore/destroy what you have right in front of you. I believe forcing these guys to play in a way that doesn’t suit them has totally destroyed their confidence. And it isn’t just Ovie, it’s pretty much everyone. Semin looks like he’s afraid to breathe. Dennis Wideman is falling apart. Roman H. should be benched. Where is Mike Knuble? The list goes on and on and on. Please go back to the old way.

    As far as trhe playoffs go: Maybe the coach should make his players watch the other teams playoff games from the past couple of years. Anytime someone has asked a Cap if they watched the playoffs they always say no. How can you know how to win in the playoffs if you’ve never seen it done?

  12. Jeff - Nov 27, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    The fun need to come back in DC for the benefit of all hockey fans.

  13. blkeskimo1785 - Nov 27, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    They should strip the “C” from Ovechkin and give it to Laich, too much pressure on Ovie.

  14. hystoracle - Nov 28, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    Who’s Joy and what does she have to do with the Capitals success? Is she a slumpbuster?

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