Caps week in review: 12.4.13
From Game One, when Connor Carrick played alongside Jack Hillen, the Capitals’ third defense pairing has been a virtual Flavor of the Week.
On Thursday, rookie blue liner Patrick Wey took his spot on the third pairing, entering a revolving door that has seen Steve Oleksy, Alex Urbom, John Erskine, Tyson Strachan and Dmitry Orlov skate through.
Is it enough to frustrate a head coach desperately looking for some stability on the blue line?
“At some point, yeah,” Adam Oates said Thursday, after pairing Wey with Orlov. “We’re trying guys out and trying to win games. It’s difficult, of course. … It is what it is.”
For those looking for reasons for the Caps’ ordinary start -- after 28 games they are 14-12-2 and have scored one more goal than they’ve allowed --look no further than the blue line.
While veterans John Carlson [28 games, 24:16 average ice time], Mike Green [25 games, 23:58] and Karl Alzner [28 games, 21:34] and rookie Nate Schmidt [24 games, 19:27] have been constants on the Caps’ blue line, no other defenseman has played more than Oleksy’s 20 games – and there’s no telling when he’ll be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past six games.
“Steve and I talked about things I’ve seen,” Oates said. “In a sense, it’s a sophomore jinx. I thought he hit a wall moving the puck. I still think very highly of him. We still want him. He just needs to work on his game. Everybody does at times. Everybody.”
Because of the constant shuffling and the inexperience of those involved, the Caps have had trouble getting clean breakouts from their own zone and that has affected every aspect of their game.
“It makes it difficult and I think that’s one of the reasons we fight to get out of our own end at times,” Oates said.
Capitals general manager George McPhee has been working the phones in an attempt to find stability on the blue line, but the fact 29 other general managers are aware that Marty Erat and Orlov are on the block has not exactly put McPhee in a favorable position.
There has been increased speculation in recent days that the Florida Panthers are anxious to move 23-year-old Russian defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, a left-handed shooter in his fifth season with the Panthers.
Kulikov had a career-high 28 points two seasons ago and could be a nice fit alongside the right-handed shooting Green or Carlson. The Panthers are reportedly seeking top prospects in return for Kulikov and the Caps are wary about going that route after surrendering Filip Forsberg to acquire Erat last season.
In the meantime, the Caps appear to be willing to try out another one of their own defensive prospects. Oates said it’s possible Wey, who began the season in the ECHL, plays against the Predators on Saturday night.
Wey, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Pittsburgh, considers himself a defensive defenseman.
“That’s my game, to be safe and dependable,” Wey said. “Break pucks out and play hard.”
“He’s been playing good down in Hershey and we have a couple practices and George wanted to see him, so we called him up,” Oates said.
“We’re trying to figure it out as we go.”