McPhee has other chips he can play. If he believes Green is going to be healthy he has two young defensemen, John Carlson and Dimitry Orlov, who many teams would covet. He also has Dennis Wideman, an all-star defenseman who is a free agent this summer. What’s more, he has two first round draft picks in a draft reportedly chock full of talented defensemen.
If any of those players or combination of players could bring in a second line center who can score or anyone who can put the puck in the net consistently, McPhee will almost certainly make a move. History says he doesn’t sit out the trading deadline.
“One of the things that’s been frustrating with our injuries is that there are no trades to be made,” he said. “It’s much harder to make a deal nowadays with no-trade clauses and the salary cap.” He paused. “Except at the deadline. Then it gets easier.”
Nothing is easy on the ice for the Caps right now. The Sharks scored their first goal Monday when Joe Pavelski somehow redirected a shot Dan Boyle had released from beyond the red line and the puck took an astro-turf hop, skittered off Holtby’s glove and into the net.
This is how tough things are for Washington right now: Pavelski wasn’t even trying to score. “I was just trying to tip it so we wouldn’t be called for icing,” he said during a between-periods TV interview.
Still, it is very difficult to judge a team that is without its two best players — and make no mistake about it, Backstrom and Green are the Capitals’ two best players in the era of Ovechkin 2.0, which is roughly the hockey equivalent of Tiger Woods 2.0.
McPhee has to believe that this team’s karma will turn in time to make the playoffs and perhaps, in a departure from recent springs, get on a roll at the right time. In the last four seasons, the Capitals have lost playoff series in which they had home ice advantage — three times losing a Game 7 at home.
Perhaps this will be the year when they begin the playoffs with lowered expectations and produce better results. Right now though, in the dog days of February, they are still trying to figure out who they are as a hockey team.
And who exactly will be playing on their hockey team eight weeks from now when — they hope — they are preparing to start the playoffs.
For John Feinstein’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.