All well and good. Decent pickups. Can't quibble with any of it, in large part because the Caps gave up only one roster player (Brian Pothier to Carolina in the Corvo swap), and that alone is an exceptional sleight-of-balance-sheet trick here in the salary cap era.
But the Caps didn't bolster their goaltending, which means, no matter how fearsome their attack, they're just OK at keeping pucks out of their net. They'll enter the playoffs, likely as the top seed in the East, entrusting the most critical position on the ice to the likes of Jose Theodore, Semyon Varlamov and/or Michal Neuvirth.
O.K., most nights those three goalies are competent. The playoffs, though, aren't most nights. Theodore and Varlamov are a combined 26-33 in postsesaon play. Neuvirth doesn't have a postseason minute on his resume. In all likelihood, it will be Theodore or Varlamov in the postseason and coach Bruce Boudreau will spend the next two months figuring out which of those two will carry the load. Why do I think a coin flip will be his ultimate decision-maker?
Sure, if the Caps' collection of high-end forwards, including superstar Alex Ovechkin, keep the puck at the far end of the the ice all night, then maybe the franchise collects its first Stanley Cup. That's just not how playoff hockey works. Even the great Oiler teams of the 1980s, for all their history-making offensive firepower, adjusted to a defensive mindset and game plan in the postseason. That wasn't because Wayne Gretzky and Co. liked playing defense, or relying on the likes of Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog and later Bill Ranford, but because they were forced into playing that way.
Without that defensive mindset and without that great goaltending, the Oilers would have drifted away aimlessly in the postseason. The Caps helped themselves in that regard with the Corvo and Jurcina (beckoned back from Columbus) acquisitions. Corvo, who owns a very good shot and is a valuable power-play asset, especially will help to take some of the heat off slick defenseman Mike Green (runner-up to Zdeno Chara for the Norris Trophy last season). Jurcina is a depth defenseman with real size (6-foot-4, 240 pounds).
What the Caps really needed, however, was an acquisition like the one they made in Feb. 2008, when they added Cristobal Huet from Montreal. He went 11-2 over the rest of the regular season and still looked good in the playoffs, when these Caps first showed they couldn't get their act together well enough defensively to vie for a Cup.
Some of that rests on the coach, of course. Boudreau, bless his old-time hockey heart, is one of the few NHL bench bosses who isn't bashful or full of apologies about playing two-way, chance-for-chance hockey. He took over what was a frustrating, moribund team under Glen Hanlon and instantly turned it around by allowing them — get this — to play with enthusiasm and passion. In a game too tightly controlled by coaches who continue to preach defensive, trapping hockey, Boudreau just let's 'em play. All of which is far easier to do when your lineup includes the amazing Ovechkin, by far the game's most dynamic player and most feared goal-scorer.
But with their goaltending suspect last spring, the Caps buckled in Game 7 of the second round against the Penguins. Faced with adversity in the seventh game, the Caps didn't have the netminding in Varlamov (the starter) or Theodore. Worse, they didn't have any semblance of a defensive fallback position in their overall game plan. The Penguins ran off to a 5-0 lead and finished with a 6-2 beatdown on the Caps' home ice.
Rumor around Boston leading up to the draft had Caps GM George McPhee trying to pry Tim Thomas away from the Bruins in a deal for winger Tomas Fleischmann. Thomas, just back from his tour backing up Ryan Miller on the U.S. Olympic Team, won the Vezina Trophy last season. He would have been the perfect fit in Washington. No knowing if the rumor was true, but Thomas' agent, Bill Zito, said that his client was never asked about the possibility of waiving his no-trade clause. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli said none of the players remaining on his roster post-trade deadline had been asked to surrender their NTC's.
Boudreau, in a report in the Washington Post immediately following the deadline, noted that attempts to improve the club's netminding didn't get anywhere.
''We're pretty comfortable with the three goalies we have,'' he added. “They've all won over 10 games (this season) and I think they're all good. People all look for faults on our team.''
Watch Live: Boston looks to finish the job and eliminate New York with a win in Game 5. Can the Rangers hold off the Bruins once again?
Alexander the Great
Take a look at Capitals star and two-time MVP Alexander Ovechkin
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