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November 8, 2013, 10:00 am
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Caps stay patient, rally to beat Wild

Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Six Pack of Questions

Welcome to our weekly edition of Penn Quarter Sports Tavern’s 6-Pack of Questions, where we aim to keep it real while answering your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.

Let’s get started.

@cadlecreek Is [Brooks] Laich 100%? I noticed he doesn't stop and start like he used to on d. He doesn't have any explosion in his 1st 2 steps.

 Good question, cadlecreek. I’m noticing some of that same lack of explosiveness. Laich has repeatedly said he’s feeling 100 percent, but as Adam Oates noted yesterday it’s hard for anyone to miss all but nine games in a season and not have it take a toll. Oates credited Laich’s contributions to the Caps’ top PK unit but I think his decision to move Marcus Johansson onto that second line is with the intention of providing better speed up the middle and should benefit both Laich and Troy Brouwer. Brouwer told me he and Laich are frustrated that they can’t get sustained offensive pressure and when they play so much time in the neutral zone they feel like they're not contributing. No question the Caps need that line to start scoring if they want to make a run in the spring and it's taken longer than anyone expected.

 @Rev_Bully [Ray] Emery/[Braden] Holtby worse than [Dale] Hunter/[Gord] Murphy or Hunter/[Pat] LaFontaine?

I’m guessing you’re referring to Dale Hunter’s ridiculously late hit on the Islanders’ Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 Patrick Division semifinals? That one has to win the “worse” award, especially when you consider Hunter gave the puck away to Turgeon and he hit him while he was celebrating his goal, separating his shoulder. That hit sparked a line brawl, just as Ray Emery’s selfish attack on Braden Holtby sparked a line brawl in Philly last week. Emery proved nothing with his beat down on Emery and the NHL overlooked a rule that would have allowed Brendan Shanahn, Colin Campbell or Gary Bettman an opportunity to suspend him. As for that Hunter hit on Murphy back in 1991 at the old Cap Centre, I was there for that one and it was a wild one. Hunter’s elbow was a nasty one, but the brawls on the ice that followed was old-time hockey. Craig Berube actually started a second brawl by slamming goalie Don Beaupre behind the net, sparking an animated argument between coaches Paul Holmgren and Terry Murray that ended with Holmgren waving a stick at Murray. When all was said and done, Flyers tough guy Dale Kushner fought four times, while Craig Berube, Terry Carkner, Alan May and Al Iafrate fought twice each in a game that featueed nearly 300 minutes in penalties. I was in the press box that night and nearly saw Flyers assistant coach Ken Hitchcock get into a scrap with fans.  

@timduffy Any of them writers calling out Frank Seravalli for choosing Emery as 3rd star? They ought to but I haven't seen it.  

After that Caps-Flyers game last week, I asked Saravalli about that third star selection and he said, I’m paraphrasing here, that the game is for the fans and there is an element of entertainment value to the star selections. That’s why, after a 7-0 loss in which Emery allowed four goals on 15 shots and won a lopsided fight, Saravalli chose him as the third star. I can tell you the Caps players were not happy with the selection, as I heard some hoots and hollers as they came into the visiting dressing room that night. Since then a few players and fans have asked me how that selection process works. In Philadelphia, one member of the media selects the three stars of the game on any given night and it rotates on a nightly basis. In Washington the three stars are selected by the team’s media staff. In other NHL cities it is often a collection of media that votes on the three stars and the players with the most votes are selected in descending order of votes. Occasionally, score sheets are ignored when a player blocks a big shot at the end of a game to preserve a win. The only time I really veered from the norm is when I made Mario Lemieux my only star selection in his final game in Philadelphia.

@Feds91 What did [Dmitry] Orlov do to fall out of favor?

This seems to be a question we get every week. Like many fans, I thought Orlov would get a chance to play his first game for the Caps this season when they called him up at the start of last week. From all reports he’s played well for Hershey in the offensive end but has been told to work on his defensive positioning in his own end. With lefty Alex Urbom playing a safe, simple game on that third unit with Steve Oleksy, Oates and assistant coach Calle Johansson have been hesitant to make any changes. As I’ve said before, this is a big year for Orlov because it’s the final year of his entry level contract. I would guess that if the Caps aren’t interested in breaking him into their lineup another team would.

@ZackAttack2828 Will Tom Wilson ever get off the 4th line?! The big kid needs more PT!!!

Patience, my friend. My gut feeling is that Oates has bigger plans for the 19-year-old rookie and is slowly integrating him into the NHL. The problem for Oates is, where do you play him? You can’t mess with the third line of Mikhail Grabovski, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward because it’s playing so well. And do you really want to put a dent in Troy Brouwer’s confidence by replacing him with Wilson? Throw in the fact you have a healthy Eric Fehr sitting out and you’ve got that logjam on right wing that Oates keeps talking about. But yes, I get your point. I still see Wilson making an impact as this season gets grittier in the second half of the season.

RW LI Central Division is a combined 12-0-1 against Metro teams. Can’t stay that way forever, right?

Well, after the Caps’ 3-2 shootout win over the Wild it’s now 12-0-2. What’s that mean? It means if the Caps [9-7-0] played in the Central Division, they’d be tied for 10th in the Western Conference standings, four points out of a playoff spot. Instead, the Caps are locked into second place in the Metro Division, four points behind the division-leading Penguins. On a broader scale, the Montreal Canadiens currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 17 points. That would be good for 12th place in the West. So, yes, as of Nov. 8, the West is far better than the East. And unless things dramatically change, the Metro Division stands to be the worst in the NHL. And that could mean a .500 record in the Metro gets you into the post-season dance.

Thanks for the great questions. Looking forward to doing it again next week.