In two straight contests, the Winnipeg Jets have been unable to solve Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby who has recorded two consecutive shutouts in the province of Manitoba. Tonight the Caps and Jets will renew their pleasantries once more in the second half of back-to-back games.
As part of our gameday coverage, we had a few questions relating to the Caps before puck-drop tonight.
With that, here is our pal Geoff Thompson (again!) from Japers' Rink in today's instalment of Gameday Questionnaire:
1. Who has been the biggest disappointment for the Capitals this year?
It’s tough to label a single player as underperforming when a former powerhouse find itself in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference’s standings. Newcomer Joey Crabb hasn’t found his form and Marcus Johansson has been ineffective, although his now confirmed concussion symptoms have been cleared and fans will expect a productive jump from the Swede. Within a losing season, Mike Green and his health continue to be a disappointment for a defenseman with a cap hit of $6.083M through 2015. The team performs better with their top defenseman, and Green’s continued struggles through groin injuries will make the team’s uphill climb tougher with each passing day.
2.How has the team adjusted to 'Oates Hockey' and do you see improvements from the start of the season?
Oates hockey began with a rough start, the Capitals’ newest Head Coach meeting with his team and trying to forge an identity with only a week before the season’s start. While Washington has improved their game across all three zones from early February, the team is still adjusting to some of Oates’ tendencies. All-star winger Alexander Ovechkin has been shuffled through a wing-side transition and the team has been fighting through injuries to many key defensive pieces (Green, John Erskine, Dmitry Orlov). The Capitals are improving (or perhaps, becoming comfortable with) Oates’ style of game plan, and I’d expect them to win a better percentage of hockey games down the stretch.
3. What is the end game for George McPhee? Is Ted Leonsis at the end of his rope with his current management staff?
It has been clear for some time now that 2013 will not be a tremendously successful one in Washington, and I’d expect to see McPhee enter the April 3rd Trade Deadline as a seller. Who is available remains to be seen (expect Mike Ribeiro, at least, to draw interest) but the Capitals will probably not look for additions should the standings remain relatively unchanged. The direction remains positive and with an eye on the future, but hopefully 2013 will be the year McPhee and Leonsis look at restocking the cupboard before the regular season ends. I'd think McPhee has at least one more season - a full off-season, training camp and regular season with Adam Oates as head coach - before he's in real danger of losing his job... but I could be wrong.
Ed. Note: We thank Geoff for his for his time in this edition of Gameday Questionnaire. Look for our next edition of Gameday Questionnaire Sunday with our pals from Raw Charge