By Rodger M. Wood
After losing to Tampa in overtime and Florida in regulation last Tuesday and Wednesday, and falling out of first place in the Southeast Division into 9th place in Eastern Conference playoff hunt, Caps management faces the dilemma of should they become buyers or sellers before the NHL February 28th trade deadline.
At the end of the first half, Caps’ balanced play was getting playoff worthy. Before the losses in Florida, they won 5 of their last eight games with one loss in overtime against Pittsburgh. In their last game of the first half, they beat last season’s champ Boston in a dramatic 5-3 win. Centering a line of wingers Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansen, Caps second year center Mathieu Perreault scored a hat trick and started making the fans forget they were missing three of their four top scorers on the ice.
The bottom line is Niklaus Backstrom is still out with concussion symptoms, which if as bad as Sydney Crosby’s condition, could keep him out the rest of this season. His blatant elbow in the head nemesis Rene Bourque should have been suspended for as many games as Backstrom was hurt, but the Brandon Shanahan system does not consider injury to a player in its award of punishment as his 3 game suspension of Ovie for a non-injury check demonstrated.
Until banished for three games for his hit on Penguins’ defenseman Zbynek Michalek , Ovie was scoring and hitting like the “Great One” of olden days. While not penalized in the game by the referees, he was cited by NHL disciplinarian, Brandon Shanahan for rising up on his skates and targeting Micalek’s head with a hit. The three game suspension is negligible as long as the punishment does not make Ovie a pansy on the ice again.
After Ovie returns against Montreal Saturday, the Caps will still be missing Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green’s potent offense. While Green is starting to skate again after his operation, hope is eternal, and fans should remember Caps Tom Poti, who has been out the better part of three seasons with a groin injury.
In the next week or so, Caps Vice President General Manager will have has to bite the bullet to decide whether Perreault will do the offensive job long term or should he buy another center and defenseman to replace the injured players before the 2012 playoffs or just chalk everything off and sell off some core players for prospects, who they believe can help win all the marbles next season.
If you’re into fantasy hockey, maybe the lowly Islanders would be interested in giving up center John Tavares for defenseman Jeff Schultz, forwards, Alexander Semin, Joel Ward, and a prospect or draft pick, or fighting for a playoff position, maybe Western Conference Nashville Predators would be willing to give up All Star defenseman Ryan Suter, who is a free agent this summer, for a package of players, which gives them more offensive punch in the playoffs.
With a tough schedule coming up in the home stretch, the Caps need to do something. They can’t rely on Backstrom and Green coming back to get them out of trouble.
They face off against Montreal away Saturday and come back home to face Boston in a matinee game Sunday at the Verizon Center..