24 April, 2014


Better Living Through Chemistry

Chemistry in sports can be a fickle mistress. The Washington Capitals were Exhibit A tonight, turning in one of their worst first periods in a very long time and a messy game overall.

The trade of Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina to Columbus caught the players — even those involved in the trade — by surprise, and the team was out of sync when the puck dropped against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Caps clearly have excellent chemistry in the locker room; there’s a palpable sense of camaraderie, and many socialize on their off days as well. On the ice the connection is even more apparent, as players often seem to sense passing and shooting lanes before said lanes even open.

Of course, things went awry during the Caps’ 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes. Some will point to the Caps’ past few games of dominating good teams (New Jersey, Buffalo) and think the team underestimated Carolina . . . perhaps understandable given Carolina’s road record, but still a patently dangerous move. Others may blame Jose Theodore for giving up far too many juicy rebounds, or the team taking ill-advised penalties and digging a hole early.

And while all the above factors contributed to the loss, it is the departure of Jurcina and Clark just hours before the game that likely had the biggest impact. Losing a popular young d-man and the team’s captain are just as likely to disrupt that delicate alchemical balance as team-building is to strengthen it.

Now in short order the Capitals will coalesce again. They’re professionals, with jobs they love; a majority of the team remains intact, and they will welcome Jason Chimera to the fold. But when a team so clearly reaps the benefits of good chemistry on most days, one should not be surprised when disrupting the mix has a negative impact mere hours after the change.



13 Comments

  1. Since I lifted the headline from the title of a Fatboy Slim album, here’s a link to his killer track “Going Out Of My Head” that you may remember from Capitals games in the early days of the Verizon Center:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyH4qyCcE9w

    29 December, 2009 at 12:43 am | Permalink
  2. Cathy W wrote:

    The way they played last night reminded me of some of their trade deadline day games. I wasn’t surprised by a bad game after hearing about the trade.

    29 December, 2009 at 7:07 am | Permalink
  3. Agreed Cathy — definitely reminiscent of a trade deadline game. But like I said, they’re pros, and they’ll refocus for the West Coast mini-trip.

    29 December, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  4. xke4me wrote:

    I don’t think you can measure Clark’s contribution in points or +/-. But, these guys are pros and will adjust. Face it, they’ve had to do it to move up the elite ranks before they even hit the NHL.

    29 December, 2009 at 10:21 am | Permalink
  5. Mickey wrote:

    I don’t but it. They just had a bad game. The trade had nothing to do with Backstrom taking a rare and unusual double minor high sticking penalty early in the game. The trade had nothing to do with Green and his partner getting beat up the middle while killing off Backstrom’s penalties, leading to an extended 5-on-3.

    What was the excuse for losing 6-3 to Toronto a couple of weeks ago?

    I know they had a very difficult travel before that particular game but the point is that the Caps have lost games in the past they should’ve won and they will do so in the future and that would be the case whether or not this trade took place.

    I think last night’s loss had more to do with giving a royally struggling team early confidence by taking undisciplined penalties. Even though they only scored a single goal during those penalties, our team was catching it’s collective breath from all that penalty killing. Sure enough, Carolina scored a couple of even strength goals shortly thereafter.

    29 December, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  6. Mickey wrote:

    *buy it not but it

    29 December, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  7. Mickey wrote:

    Some folks are just trying to make a connection for the sake of making a connection. Sure, Clark and Juice were good guys and good teammates and I’ll even agree that there will be a brief and minor disruption to team chemistry. However, I don’t think that effect was anywhere near significant enough to lead to that performance last night. Carolina got an early jump, gained some rare confidence and we made some mistakes. All those things were unrelated to the trade.

    29 December, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  8. Grooven wrote:

    I don’t buy into that excuse either. A player who’d been scratched the past couple games isn’t a causal effect of defensive breakdown. And as for Clark, all Boudreau really has to say is “Play like he’s out hurt again.”
    I’m not trying to be cold or caustic, but they’re both players the Caps have put together solid games without before.

    29 December, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  9. My point is that chemistry is a double-edged sword: If people consistently claim that good chemistry helps teams play better, then disrupting said chemistry will have a negative impact (at least in the short run).

    There are some who claim that chemistry is irrelevant — that sporting success about talent & practice, nothing more. Mickey & Grooven, if that’s how you feel, then I completely understand your positions that the trade had no impact on the game.

    But team chemistry either has no impact, or it does; I believe enough examples exist to support the latter.

    29 December, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink
  10. Mickey wrote:

    I believe in the importance of team chemistry as I acknowledged in one of my previous posts. I just don’t think that the trade of Clark and Jurcina was signficant enough to be responsible for Backstrom taking a double minor penalty early in the game or Green and his partner getting beat up the middle while killing off Backstrom’s penalty.

    I think the result of those early mistakes was Carolina gaining some rare confidence early in a hockey game on the road. Aside from those early goals, which I think were largely due to Backstrom’s and Green’s penalties (including the even strength goals due to us having to do a lot of penalty killing and being fatigued), we outplayed Carolina and outscored them 3-2 the rest of the way, not counting the empty-netter.

    I still think people are trying to make a connection for the sake of making a connection. Any disruption in team chemistry was minor and had little to nothing to do with that performance, in my opinion. If Backstrom and Green don’t take those early penalties, the game probably has a very different outcome and this conversation wouldn’t even be taking place.

    If the Nylander situation didn’t hurt team chemistry, then I don’t think a trade of two players that have been in and out of the lineup would do it, either. Nylander may have been disliked by fans but I don’t think the players had any issues with him, particularly Backstrom.

    These guys are professionals and know how to put these kinds of things aside when they step on the ice. We just had a bad game against Carolina just like we did last season when they whooped us a couple times while Clark and Jurcina were still on the roster. Even if we happen to lose our next 5 games, I’d still say it had nothing to do with the trade.

    30 December, 2009 at 5:16 am | Permalink
  11. Mickey wrote:

    I’d also add that the fact that Clark was our captain doesn’t change my opinion on the matter. Clark was a great guy that probably deserved better but, in the long run, this is an opportunity for one of the other guys to step up in that role. I personally like the idea of Laich being that guy but I wouldn’t mind it being Ovechkin, either. I think it may force him to take another step in his development in terms of responsibility and maturity.

    30 December, 2009 at 5:20 am | Permalink
  12. Mickey, I’m with you on Laich, he’d be a terrific captain. I think Ovechkin will eventually wear the C, but for now would rather see him unburdened by a formal leadership role.

    30 December, 2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  13. The Post, and the players, weigh in:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/29/AR2009122901846.html?sub=AR

    30 December, 2009 at 8:08 am | Permalink

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