Now twelve games into the season, the Washington Capitals are finally starting to find out who they are as a team. Goaltending isn't the issue many thought it would be. Neither is the defense. The power play is finally starting to click, but injuries have been a problem so far. With Games 10 and 11 coming on the road against Western Conference teams, the Caps still had some questions to be answered. For games 10, 11 and 12 we decided to focus on the play of John Erskine, Alex Ovechkin and Eric Fehr. 4, 8, 16 (we'd keep going, but Dale Hunter's 32 is already retired).
Erskine - Already playing the best hockey of his stint in DC, can Captain Caveman keep it up?
Hey, did you see Erskine get blown up at the blue line, trying to break the puck in last night? Yeah, me too. Heads up John!
After averaging over 19 minutes per game in his first 9 games, Erskine's ice time dropped to just over 16 minutes per game over the last three. While his game has remained consistent (even +/- , no points and 5 hits over his last 3), John isn't seeing as much ice as he used to, even with Tom Poti out. The easy explanation is that Karl Anzner and John Carlson have been receiving increased time over the same span, but one has to wonder if Erskine's inpressive start is beginning to be slowed by the bumps and bruises that come with his physical game.
Ovechkin - Where has Alex's game gone?
Oh, there it is! Its been in Calgary all this time!?
After a rather pedestrian 9 points in 9 games (I can't get a point-per-game average playing rec league hockey...), Ovie proceeded to score the lone goal in Minnesota and follow that up by blowing up the Calgary Flames in under 30 seconds. Ending the three game swing back at home, Alex tallied 2 assists and a shoot out goal (don't look now, but counting penalty shots, Alex is now two-for-two on the season). More importantly, Ovie, Nick Backstrom and the Power Play are finally clicking. After a few games skating with Alex Semin, talk of a 'scoring drought' usually goes away. Next step: getting Mike Knuble some garbage to work with.
Fehr - Can Fehr finally find his groove?
Nope. Not yet.
Averaging under 13 minutes per game is a common occurance for Fehr, who last season put up career numbers without a lot of time to do so. This season? After 2 goals in his first three games, Eric hasn't lit the lamp in 8 games and was scratched for an eventual 'pad-your-stats' game against Calgary. He didn't manage any shots against Minnesota, then returned with 5 on Toronto. It's clear that Fehr will continue to see around 12:30 in ice time per game with some time on the power play but so far, those minutes haven't been all that productive.
For games 10-12, we'll be taking a look at Michal Neuvirth, Alex Semin and everyone's favorite, Brooks Laich Mike Green Matt Bradley.