Less than two weeks ago we said that the Capitals victory over the Boston Bruins just before the all-star break could be a season changer.
It wasn’t. There was no momentum boost after the break.
Could today’s loss, 4-1 at the hands of the Boston Bruins be a season ender? I hope I’m wrong on this prediction as well, but the question has to be asked.
We have to consider the question not because the loss pushed the Washington Capitals far out of the realm of a playoff race. Rather it is what what happened during the game that is the major cause for concern. On a team that already is crippled at center due to the loss of Nicklas Backstrom over a month ago, the news today got worse as Brooks Laich was hit into the boards , limped off the ice and did not return.
Officially, Brooksie is listed as day-to-day, but in the NHL, that is an update that has about as much meaning as a weather report out of Pyongyang. We don’t know yet how bad this one truly is, but if Laich is out for even a few weeks, it will get ugly fast.
If Laich is out for a considerable amount of time (He was on crutches after the game) and as there is still no timetable for Backstrom’s return, the Capitals lineup at center is worse than patchwork. Indeed, there is barely any stitching at all keeping this this thing together.
Consider then that your #1 center Mathieu Perreault is still too small and lacking the natural talent for the role. Not a diss at Perreault, he has tremendous heart and work ethics but even on a below average team this guy would never be a top line center.
Your other option is Marcus Johansson, a guy with more natural talent then Perreault and better size, but inconsistency issues.
Marcus still doesn’t look like a natural at leading the charge down the ice, or making headman passes down the ice.(He also missed connecting a pass to Ovechkin today even while Alex was essentially right next to him) there are times of brilliance but we haven’t seen it nearly enough.
Oh and Matt Hendricks or Jeff Halpern may have to be your second line centers. That also spell trouble.
Like Perreault, we like the work ethic of these two a lot, we’ve also seen Hendricks play much more proficiently in the offensive zone and even show off a little speed. And yet, both of these two are primarily defensive-first centers. They are badly suited for the role of number two center.
We could also go another few paragraphs describe how Brooks Laich serves more roles for this team than anyone else. If you’re a Capitals fan, you already know this. Saying he isn’t easy to replace is an understatement.
As for the game today, with Brooks Laich out in the second period, time-and-time again we saw Alexander Ovechkin try to do everything himself.
Even for a player with Alex’s skill and ability, Boston had few problems dealing with this as they often sent two guys to shadow Ovechkin.
With a damaged lineup, Ovechkin rarely passed the puck today. After Laich’s injury he played like he believed he now had to do everything himself.
Unfortunately, he may be right.
Caps notes: We’ll know more on Laich’s status tomorrow and of course I’ll have that update for you.