Caps progress

I'm really not feeling too much like trying to play catch-up on all the games that I haven't written about (though I watched all of them except the Penguins game.  And yes, I'm still not sure how I missed that one.  And with the shutout win, I was very disappointed), so I'll go with some more general thoughts about current situation and recent past.

The biggest of those is the recent (not entirely unexpected) resurgence of Braden Holtby.  He's been amazing lately, outright stealing a couple of games, and coming close to a couple of others.  The downside, though, is that Trotz has lost confidence in Peters and won't play him.  Holtby is already up to twenty games now, and that's already too many.

Yes, I know he's still over fifty games from the (league) record, but pushing that didn't work all that well for the '96 Blues.  There's also the issue that it tends to burn out goalies, and this is the bigger problem.  On a game by game basis, putting Holtby in is, unquestionably, the right decision.  But cumulatively, it becomes disastrous.

Usually, it's something that happens with desperate coaches, but there's no reason to think that Trotz should be desperate.  So Barry, give Holtby a rest regularly.  It'll be good for both of you, even if it does lose a few games in the short term.  Really, it wouldn't be more than a few.  Holtby's long-term health is worth a hell of a lot more than that.  And Peters might surprise you, too (he's due for at least a little bit of positive regression to the mean).

Fehr and Alzner are both showing a bit of scoring touch (relative to their position, of course); let's hope that continues with both.

MarJo is having a very good year.  I was thinking about it when he scored his second last night, but couldn't remember him scoring multiples before.  Can't believe I forgot the game where he and OV each scored a pair.

Bura needs more ice time.  He's just killing it when he's out there, with his goal the other night just being the exclamation point on that.  I don't know what he did to get into Barry's dog house, but he needs to be on the ice.  I don't think the top line is the best place for him (his original 2C was better, I think), but it isn't a terrible place, either.

Kuzya seems to be coming into form as a good center.  His faceoffs are pretty terrible, but I'm not that sold on that being a huge liability.  I think I'd prefer to see Bura dropped down to 2C, Kuzya as 3C (whether with Laich and Ward or Chimmer and Ward), and move Fehr back up to the top line, where he was knocking it out of the park earlier in the season.

Fehr's a decent center, and surely better in the faceoff dot than either Bura or Kuzya, but his defensive prowess (mostly, getting his stick into passing lanes, which he's become excellent at) would really bolster the top line.

Laich has been pretty effective, but I still wouldn't mind seeing him dropped to fourth line in favor of Chimmer.  That's not a slight on Laich, just a recognition of Chimmer and Ward's chemistry.  Or maybe put Laich between Chimmer and Ward as a shutdown line again, dropping Kuzya down.

Then scratch Beagle, put Latta back in, and make the fourth line a soft-minutes scoring line, rather than a shutdown one.

And, for God's sake, stop putting Beagle on the top line.  It has never worked, and there's no reason to think it will.  At least now, it's gotten to be a rarity, but it still happens from time to time.

Wilson, I'm not sure how to handle.  He's lost his main value since being moved down, which was his ability to draw penalties.  But I'm not saying that it was a mistake to move him down; I don't think it was.  But I'm not sure where his best value is.  Maybe he'd do well in that fourth-line scoring line I postulated.

On the defensive side, I've been pretty pleased with how things have gone.  Carlson and Orpik are doing a good job eating up the tough assignments without getting crushed possessionally.  Alzner and Niskanen are doing a decent job with the not-quite-so-tough assignments, and Green and Schmidt are cleaning up in the easy time.

Except that Schmidt has been scratched a lot lately, and Hillen has been getting killed, possessionally.  With more offensize zone starts.  And easier competition.  The only thing I've heard that makes any sense at all is that it might be related to Schmidt's waiver status (as in, he's waiver-exempt unless he plays a few more games).

If it's related to Hillen's extra assist in half the number of games, then i'm going to say that Trotz has a blind spot regarding one or both of those two.  Because that's not the way to bet, if you're trying to figure out which is the better player.

And man, I thought it might have something to do with goal scoring (as Hillen has a higher PDO than Schmidt), but the goal-scoring is even more skewed towards Schmidt than are Fenwick or Corsi.  So color me befuddled.

In any event, what can be said is that the team is going along pretty well.  Their standings point pace is higher than it's been since Boudreau was at the helm, and they haven't had a really bad game since they played the Rangers a couple weeks ago.  And the only seriously worrisome sign is Holtby's workload.  And that'll be far more worrisome if Holtby plays the back end of the back-to-back tonight.  We'll see.

Go Caps!

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