Tarik:The mental state of the team is extremely fragile. Zubrus and Zednik are wondering whether they are to be traded. Eminger and Clymer are wondering why they are being scratched every night. Everyone is wondering when Ovechkin is going to get another point.
It's not a good scene.
Q.: Are they working on on shootouts in practice...or is it not really a focus?
A.: The Caps have been working on shootouts in practice. They did it for about 15 minutes today.
And, you know what? Ovechkin (by my count) missed at least five times on Johnson. In fact, I didn't see him score once.
After missing his fourth or fifth try, he threw his stick against the boards and dropped to the ice on his stomach. He stayed there for a couple of minutes.
Q.: Ovie needs to try tripping himself and shooting the puck while he's turning over, prostrate on the ice.
A.: That's so funny you mention that. Because at the end of practice today, he tried to recreate 'The Goal' on an empty net. A couple his teammates, Semin included, also gave it a try. No one scored, though. But everyone had a good laugh.
Q.: How will Ovechkin react if Zubrus is traded?
A.: Ovechkin was very close to Zubrus last year. Zubrus was his roommate on the road and was like an older brother to him. But this season Ovechkin has been much closer to Semin. They are now roommates on the road and best friends.
So from an off-ice point of view, Zubrus getting traded wouldn't be so traumatic now. On the ice, however, it could have a big effect. Zubrus often makes up for Ovechkin leaving the zone early, which all elite goal scorers have to do. There's a trust/chemistry factor there.
Q.: Hey Tarik -- Which Cap has been the best to interview this year? Why?
A.: My favorites, in order, are:
1) Kolzig because he's as honest as they come. Due to his stature with the team, he's not afraid of offending anyone.
2) Clark because he's also very honest. And he's very good at explaining difficult situations/dynamics in the dressing room/game action.
3) Ovechkin because he's funny. He can match one-liners with anyone in the league.
Q.: With the speed that some of the Caps players have, why don't they have a more aggressive forecheck?
A.: At what cost? Giving up 38-50 shots a game? Been there, done that.
At this point, given the direction of the rebuild, playing a more defensive system (not a trap, but more cautious) and yielding 30 or fewer shots per game is probably the right strategy. Even if means the Caps score fewer goals and Ovechkin is reduced to 40 goal scorer and not a 50 goal scorer. That's what Hanlon is trying to do, and I have no problem with that.