While much as been made of the scoring woes of the Capitals' Big 3 -- well, at least it was prior to Friday's one-game resurgence over Tampa Bay -- it's not as if the rest of the team has been chipping in to compensate. Looking down the list of the next six point-producers from last season, every one of them is also on pace to fall well short of last year's totals.
Brooks Laich 59 42
Mike Green 76 36
Eric Fehr 39 26
Mike Knuble 53 32
Tomas Fleischmann* 51 35
Matt Bradley 24 13
* -- Since traded
So, is the problem systemic? Former NHL player/coach/GM Mike Milbury says you can't discount it. Everyone who has watched the Caps roll in the regular season, only to fall apart in the playoffs, knew they'd have to eventually wake up and divert some attention to defence in order to take that next step and Milbury figures that is what is happening.
"I think they've gotten caught in the mix of trying to reconfigure themselves," Milbury said on MSNBC. "They need to find that balance between their go-go offence and some defence when it's needed and I think that's the struggle they are going through. It's a philosophical adjustment."
Will the Caps offence regain its swagger? According to Milbury, it should, but not to last year's level. Friday's four-point outbursts by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were welcome but likely not the floodgates their fantasy owners are hoping for.
"They have to stay on that path," Milbury said. "Make sure their house is tidied up in their own zone, learn to find ways to counter offensively and not just be focussed on the back end."
-- Talk about bottom-feeders, according to Capitals blogger Japer's Rink, Backstrom's two goals against the Lightning on Friday night were just his second and third this season against a playoff-ranked team. Ovechkin's goal was just his seventh. Alexander Semin, however, has saved 13 of his 18 goals for the top teams.
-- The surgically repaired right foot that forced Peter Forsberg into retirement, is acting up again in his attempt to make a comeback with the Avs. That probably explains his reticence in signing a contract with his former club. Foppa told the Denver Post he will continue to work out with the Avs and hopes to make a decision soon, though most feel he will wait and try next season.
-- Favourable early reviews for the Canadiens' new top line of Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty in back-to-back wins midweek. The trio accounted for four of the Habs' five goals -- three by Gionta, who had been stone cold prior to the all-star break, though one of his goals Tuesday against the Caps came when he stayed on the ice for an extended shift with Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn.
-- The break also appears to have helped Panthers' Stephen Weiss, who scored against both the Maple Leafs and Habs this week after going the previous 11 games without a goal.
-- Dustin Byfuglien owners are wondering if his carriage has turned back into a pumpkin. The Thrashers defenceman took an 11-game point drought into last night's tilt in Raleigh, N.C. Worse, he was a minus-6 in that span and had managed only two minor penalties.
-- Brandon Dubinsky returned from the injured list Tuesday and was inserted on to the top line with Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov. Wojtek Wolski dropped back to the second unit with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust.
n A reminder that with the Kings in the early stages of a 10-game road swing, winger Wayne Simmonds has seven of his nine goals away from the Staples Center.
Justice has been served. If you're wondering what happened to those two goals by Ryan Smyth of the Kings during Wednesday night's 3-1 win at Edmonton, they have both been officially changed to defenceman Drew Doughty. Smyth was given credit for deflecting in two of Doughty's power-play blasts, but admitted afterwards with a grin that he didn't get his stick on either one. Doughty said it was no big deal (his fantasy owners would beg to differ) and less than 24 hours later, a league review got it right.
GAMES THIS WEEK
Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Edmonton, N.Y. Islanders, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Toronto
Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington
Every other team plays 3 games
HOT AND NOT
(Forwards the past three weeks)
Lee Stempniak PHX
5-6-11 in 9 games
Tyler Ennis BUF
3-6-9 in 7 games
Michael Grabner NYI
6-3-9 in 9 games
Teddy Purcell TB
4-5-9 in 7 games
- - - - - - -
Rene Bourque CAL
1-0-1 in 9 games
Tyler Seguin BOS
1-0-1 in 9 games
TRAINER'S ROOM TICKER
Pavel Datsyuk (hand) had his return pushed back until Monday "¦ Florida's Evgeni Dadonov is out for about four weeks with a broken finger "¦ Patrick Kane hurt his ankle in the morning skate Friday but gingerly played through it that night ... Peter Mueller (concussion) has skated by himself for three consecutive days "¦ Dustin Penner missed Friday's game with the flu "¦ Ryan O'Reilly (shoulder) has been elevated to day-to-day "¦ Jaroslav Halak is out with an upper body injury, believed to be his hand "¦ Groin injuries are always tough to forecast, which is why Alex Semin is still on the sidelines ... Jussi Jokinen (lower body) is out again for another week or two "¦
With fantasy rating out of 5
Former high first-rounder finally made his NHL debut this week with a goal and an assist in his first three games, despite fourth-line ice time. He has a great upside if he can stay healthy, but right now -- as is the case with most of these Vancouver forward callups -- has minimal value with the Canucks' top two lines stacked.
The nine-save relief job in his NHL debut Tuesday was a nice beginning and he'll stick around as Antti Niemi's backup with news that Antero Niittymaki aggravated his groin injury in practice Friday. But he would need both starters to stagger or get hurt -- not as far-fetched as it sounds -- to gain any fantasy traction.
Normally, we don't recommend untried rookie goalies on bad teams but, with Rick DiPietro back on the shelf for at least a month, there's no one else, so you'll get the minutes. Plus, the Isles aren't all that bad right now, having given up 21 goals in their past right games.
D, Maple Leafs
* * *
In case he was dumped in your league and available, maligned Leafs captain has four assists in his past six games and his refound desire to join the rush recently has not gone unnoticed.