Six for the road?
The Capitals are embarking on this week’s three-game, six-night road trip with six able-bodied defensemen. (I hesitate to say healthy, because it’s a relative thing.) Mike Green remains in Washington with a strained right groin muscle, and despite Coach Bruce Boudreau’s explanation that there are plenty of off days to fly a call-up out if needed, it’s tough not to wonder if the Capitals are playing with fire.
An off day separates each of the three road games this week, and even Winnipeg, the farthest of the Capitals’ destinations this week, is reachable by plane in less than half a day. If a player, particularly on the beleaguered defense, were to suffer an injury during a morning skate or practice, it would create a scramble to get someone to the team. If an injury were to occur in warmups, the Capitals likely wouldn’t hesitate to use Brooks Laich on defense again if necessary.
Can’t keep punching the bench button.
Boudreau made it clear Saturday night that he wasn’t going to reserve a spot for Alexander Semin on the bench each time the Russian winger takes a penalty. The circumstances of each individual minor will play a role, but Boudreau did say that he benched Semin on Friday because he didn’t feel the 28-year-old was having his best night.
While many wondered if that significant sitdown would lead to more for Semin, I’m not surprised that for the time being it seems like a one-night message. As frustrating as Semin’s play can sometimes be, he has improved his game away from the puck and he’s one of a few players who can alter the course of the game with one shot, one shift. While treating all players with a consistent hand is important, Boudreau’s job is to win games and to keep benching Semin could dull the message the coach sent on Friday — and that might be more of a detriment to that ultimate goal (winning) than a help to it.
Home, sweet home.
Jason Chimera was taking some heat from his teammates about not scoring away from Verizon Center, but on Friday night in New Jersey he finally cracked the road. The speedy winger — or Ice Cheetah, if you prefer — has been playing well consistently through the start of this season. His first goal on the road was also the team’s first short-handed goal of the year.
In 15 games, Chimera has recorded six goals, only four shy of his total from last season (10). The last time Chimera scored more than 10 goals in a season was 2007-08, when he recorded 14 as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Having players like Chimera and other forwards not named Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin chip in can only help make sure that even when the stars struggle to score, the Capitals’ offense won’t come to a halt.
Here’s Chimera talking about that doozy of a shorthanded goal he scored in the 3-1 win over the Devils:
“I knew I poked it by one defenseman. I knew I had a one-on-one and I looked to my left, knew I had a step on the guy. I don’t know who it was [Adam Larsson] but I had a step on him so I kind of went around him. Once you’re around him you don’t want to dump it in if you’re on a breakaway.
“It was obviously nice to get that goal, give us a little boost,” Chimera continued. “It’s a big bonus if you get one shorthanded…. We didn’t talk about who gets the first. There should have been a pool. I would have won the pool.”