Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Down the Stretch They Come

Mike Green = das uber important.  But you knew that.
OK, Caps fans.  The dog days are over.  Your Capitals have come through the doldrums of their season with flying colors, roaring through the toughest month of the season with their best month of the season, often with some of their top players missing.  The result: a 19-point month that has clinched Washington a spot in the playoffs, pushed them to the brink of first place in the Eastern Conference, and riding as high as they have all year.  With a little more than a week left in the regular season, however, the time has come to shift our attention as fans (for the most part) to the playoffs.  As such, there are some things that I want to see before the regular season comes to a close that I believe will have a big impact on the teams' playoff chances.  Drum roll, please...

1. The Return of Mike Green: With the news last week that Dennis Wideman is out indefinitely, probably well into the playoffs, with hematoma in his leg, the return of Number 52 is as imperative as ever.  With Wideman gone, Green is the best defenseman the Capitals have and is their only experienced power play quarterback.  Washington needs his puck-moving skills to run the man-advantage, which still isn't clicking at even close to full speed, and also to take some of the even-strength offensive pressure of John Carlson, whose minutes have been way too high the last two games.  Oh, and Mike is like, really good, and stuff.
2. Fix the Power Play: Duh.  As has been pointed out many times by many people, the Capitals are wildly more successful in games in which they score a power play goal than in games they don't.  I really think at this point that it is more about making the most of opportunities than the actual structure of the man advantage.  I like Jason Arnott on the point and I like Alex Ovechkin down low.  I will like Mike Green on the point (if he comes back).  I like Nicklas Backstrom on the half wall.  Now it's all about converting, there's not much more Boudreau can tinkle with here.
3: Six Healthy NHL Defensemen: Call me crazy.  Is it too much to ask to have six of the nine defensemen the Capitals have on the roster right now healthy? Tyler Sloan has an undisclosed injury.  Wideman has hematoma.  John Erskine has another undisclosed injury.  Mike Green has his concussion. And Tom Poti has that mystical leg/butt/knee/groin thing that's had him out of games since early February.  That leaves Jeff Schultz, Scott Hannan, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson.  I can't deal with Sean Collins and Brian Fahey in the playoffs.  My blood pressure is high already.
4: A Number One Goalie to Emerge: Alot of people, including me, have said in the not-so-distant past that Michal Neuvirth deserves to be the man when the playoffs open April 13.  However, judging by his performance over the last two games, when he has looked shaky at times and downright awful twice, I may be changing my mind a bit.  Let's be honest, Neuvy only won those games because his offense had a pulse.  Semyon Varlamov was much more impressive during his one start, even though he let in a very bad goal, and has allowed more than two goals just four times in his last 17 starts.  The stats say he's the better candidate.  To me, Neuvirth isn't playing like he really wants it right now, regardless of how good he's been this year (and he's been great).  One of them is going to need to.
This is a big week.  Heal up and get ready.  Get some momentum.  Could be big. Don't you just love hockey in April?

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