21 April, 2014


Washington Capitals in the Wayback Machine?

Watching tonight’s Washington Capitals game, and their recent victory over Boston, felt eerily familiar. The Caps’ roster was relatively devoid of superstars; they fought hard, beat a better team (vs. Boston) and lost a close one to a divisional rival (Tampa).

Without Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green, this Capitals team is surprisingly similar to the Capitals of almost a decade ago… a hard-charging team that both delighted and frustrated its fans.

How so, you ask? Read on… and while these comparisons are far from perfect, consider them food for thought:

2002-03 2011-12 Why?
Steve Konowalchuk Brooks Laich Tough, lays it all on the line every shift, scores the dirty goals, everyone loves him
Olaf Kolzig Tomas Vokoun Savvy vet netminder — not a shutdown goalie but certainly solid
Jeff Halpern Jeff Halpern Well, duh…
Glen Metropolit Matthieu Perreault Little guy, constantly underestimated, great speed burst, hard worker
Michael Nylander Marcus Johansson Remember, back then Nylander was a real asset — and a very solid second-line pivot, like Johansson.
Calle Johansson Dennis Wideman Reliable puck-moving defenseman overshadowed by a high-scoring teammate
Brendan Witt / Ken Klee John Erskine Hard-hitting, crease-clearing D… would that the Capitals had two on their roster!
Mike Grier Jason Chimera Blazing speed, scores in bursts — Grier had 15 goals that season, Chimmy already has 14
Peter Bondra Alexander Semin European skater, brilliant offensive talent… of course Semin isn’t a fan fave like Bondra was, but both have laserbeam shots and rack up the goals
Sergei Berezin Troy Brouwer This one’s a stretch, but both were brought in from Chicago for their offense… Brouwer, though, has more upside come playoff time
Kip Miller Mike Knuble Another stretch, but in the opposite direction: Miller had 50 points that season, but Knuble has yet to find his groove.
Jason Doig Jeff Schultz Doig hit better, Schultz is better at positioning & shot-blocking — but neither fits the team’s long-term plans
Sebastian Charpentier Michal Neuvirth Young netminder trying to break into the starter role… but Neuvy is more likely to stick around and claim the starting job next season

It’s not a perfect match; the old-school Caps had no Karl Alzner, nor a spark-plug like Matt Hendricks, nor a promising young defenseman like Dmitry Orlov. Of course, that team of yore had a disenchanted but still-dangerous Jaromir Jagr—but the current Caps have Ovechkin… and however you feel about Ovie wearing the “C” he’s undoubtedly more deserving than Jagr was, and a wrecking-ball to boot.

Oh, and comparing the coaches falls down just a little bit… while Dale Hunter is another minor-league coach given his first NHL shot with the Caps, he kicks Butch Cassidy’s ass in pretty much every way.

When the 2011-12 team’s Robert Lang (Nicklas Backstrom) and Sergei Gonchar (Mike Green) return from injury, this roster can compete with any in team in the league. The team going through trying times with a depleted roster will build their chemistry and resolve come playoff time.

This limping Capitals team has earned three points in two games, including a tilt against the defending champs… and that’s without three of their big stars. Adding back a healthy Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Green down the stretch improves the team dramatically — but in the meantime, a team forced to play without its superstars is also forced to play a balanced, team-focused game.

If Coach Hunter and the locker-room leaders enforce that team-first mentality when their superstars return… watch out, ’cause these Capitals will be dangerous.



10 Comments

  1. … and if you have other analogies to share, or think I screwed one (or more) up, let me know via the comments. :)

    1 February, 2012 at 12:15 am | Permalink
  2. Ray in MD wrote:

    IF they get Nicky and Green back…when I see it my optimism will return. We’re horrible 4 on 4 without two of three best players. All three out? No chance.
    Knubs…we all love you but you’re not doing what we pay you to do, net rebounds. The miss at 58:xx was a killer.

    1 February, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink
  3. Dark Stranger wrote:

    And, in the analogy department, let’s hope the 2012-2013 edition of the team does not follow in the 2003-2004 edition’s footsteps.

    1 February, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink
  4. tracy wrote:

    charpentier brought joy and the Cup to an ECHL team in 1997-98. we loved him in norfolk va.

    1 February, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  5. Ross wrote:

    I’m kind of upset that Semin the equivalent to Bondra, at least you could count on Bonzai to score some goals.

    1 February, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  6. @ ROSS: I know, I struggled with the Bondra-Semin comparison too… but goals-wise they’re pretty similar. Bondra had 39 goals in 01-02, and 30 the year of this comparison. Semin had 40 then 28.

    @ RAY: I know what you mean — gotta love Knubs but he needs those grinder goals to be a contributor to the team. And yeah, consistent health of 19 & 52 can’t be assumed, but if it happens my hope will soar too.

    1 February, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  7. VanZabDan wrote:

    I agree that there aren’t a lot of similarities between Dale and Butch but one I’ve noticed is a constant changing of line combinations, and that was before all the injuries. I haven’t heard Dale say anything crazy like “I believe in pairs” ala Butch but here’s to some stability when Ovie and Nicky return.

    1 February, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  8. @ Dark Stranger, amen to that!

    1 February, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  9. Amy(Stackhouse)Kaye wrote:

    MIke, that really took me back, thank you! It was those years and that roster that got me hooked on hockey to begin with. That was when I was lucky enough to be Amy’s “fill in” for Dave. Thank you Dave! You’ll never know how much I’ve enjoyed sitting in your seat all these years! :)

    2 February, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  10. Ha! Great reminiscence Amy — we’ve enjoyed sitting in front of you all these years as well. :)

    5 February, 2012 at 1:49 am | Permalink