Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for the Capitals in the Big Apple. Defensive breakdowns and weak goals were the main themes of the night. The Capitals lost their way and did not stick to their structure and game plan. The Capitals breakdowns played right into the Rangers game plan, as they were able to make the game more of a track meet than a ground and pound game.
On top of the things that went wrong for the Capitals, it is saddening to hear that the Rangers were up to some shenanigans throughout the game, according to Barry Trotz.
As most Capitals fans already know, the Capitals are at their best when the game is more of a grind. The Capitals are not as fast as the Rangers are in terms of team speed, but the Capitals probably have more players who play a more physical rugged game.
THE LACK OF A “RESPONSE”
After the Rangers scored their third goal last night, I was expecting some sort of “response” from the Capitals.
When I use the word “response,” I am not necessarily talking about scoring a goal (even though goals are nice). I am talking about initiating a big fight, a big hit, or even taking an aggressive minor penalty like boarding, slashing, or goaltender interference. In the hockey world, a “response” is something that sends a message to the other side. A “response” is something that can provide a spark to the bench.
There was no response from the Capitals bench last night. While the Capitals were only down by 2 goals at the time, a proper response could have potentially sparked the Capitals bench. If the Capitals get the right response or spark, that can potentially help change the momentum in their favor.
ARE TOUGHNESS AND AGITATION LACKING?
The Capitals bottom six forward group right now looks like this:
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Andre Burakovsky
Brooks Laich – Chandler Stephenson – Tom Wilson
Extras: Michael Latta, Stanislav Galiev, Chris Brown (injured)
The Capitals third line of Chimera, Beagle, and Wilson has actually been pretty impressive. This line has a combined 5 goals and 10 points so far this season. They have been able to generate scoring chances.
The same cannot be said for the Capitals 4th line this season. The 4th line has been a real mess for the Caps. In 11 games played, Brooks Laich has 0 points. In 8 games played, Chandler Stephenson has 0 points. Andre Burakovsky has managed 2 goals and 5 points on the season, but his skill set and talent is not ideal for the Capitals 4th line. There is little punch and oomph with the Capitals 4th line.
With the exception of Tom Wilson and Michael Latta (who is a frequent scratch), there is not a whole lot of snarl in the Capitals bottom 6 group. There is no “mean,” and no “in-your face mentality.” The Capitals lack agitation in their bottom 6 group, and they need another player or two who can bring that to their lineup.
EXAMPLES OF AGITATORS (WHO CAN PLAY)
Let’s take a look at some of the best agitators around the NHL who can play. We will divide them up by their cap hits/price. They will be divided into two categories: “Cheap” and Expensive”
CHEAP (UNDER 2M CAP HIT)
Gregory Campbell (CBJ) ($1.5M cap hit)
Casey Cizikas (NYI) ($1M cap hit)
Vernon Fiddler (1.25M cap hit)
EXPENSIVE (2M+ CAP HIT)
Scott Hartnell (CBJ) ($4.75M cap hit)
Brad Marchand (BOS) ($4.5M cap hit)
Wayne Simmonds (PHI) ($3.975M cap hit)
Cap Hits Via (https://hockeyscap.com/)
CAN THE CAPS ACQUIRE AN AGITATOR?
Yes, I know what you are thinking. Some of the players above are not feasibly available via trade.
The list above is just a small sample of players who I deem to be the top agitators around the NHL. The players listed above are good at getting under their opponents’ skin. These players play an “in-your face” style of hockey.
I believe the Capitals could use an agitator or two in their bottom 6 forward group. It will give them an added dimension of intimidation within their lineup. Players like Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle, Chandler Stephenson do not bring that “in-your face” attitude to the ice. They do not get under the opponents’ skin.
This snarl that the Capitals are missing is something that needs to be addressed. While the Capitals will most likely be a playoff contender, this element is still missing a bit from their lineup. The Capitals need to continue to get tougher, and they need to inject a little bit more “mean” into their lineup. “Snarl” and “mean” are two things that lead to extra intimidation on the ice.
By George Foussekis