by Maitreya Jay @sickunbelievabl
Hockey has always been the quintessential physical sport. But the speed and fury of the game has particularly escalated post lockout when two-line passes were allowed and holding/interference penalties more stringently enforced in an effort to make the game “easier to watch.” Today’s bigger, stronger athletes are skating faster, making quicker decisions and increasingly finding themselves sidelined by in-game injuries.
That said, it’s no secret that the Washington Capitals are a depleted team right now. Mike Green has missed the majority of the season with a series of lower body and abdominal injuries which required rehab and surgery; Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t returned to game action since absorbing a head shot from a cheap Rene Bourque elbow; Brooks Laich went down with what looks to be a potentially serious knee injury in Sunday’s game versus Boston; and Tom Poti … just joshin’ ya.
While there’s no doubt that the Caps have been gutted by injury, the reality is that the injuries can’t be an excuse. The graph below charts Points and Man Games Lost per team for the Eastern Conference as of the All-Star break.
While it’s true that Boston are scorching the league in-part due to an uncanny ability to stay healthy (and let’s face it, a 7 foot tall Norris candidate in front of a Vezina winner don’t hurt), the fact remains that other teams are doing a lot more than the Capitals with a lot less on the ice. Pittsburgh, who lead the league in man games lost (and who lost Crosby for virtually ALL of the season and Letang for an extended stretch) sat at 60 pts as of the break in a difficult Atlantic division despite missing 244 man games to injury. And most frightening, perhaps, is Florida who currently leads our divison with more man games lost than Hunter’s squad.
With a healthy Green, Backstrom and Laich in the lineup, we expect to win. But the point is the Washington Capitals don’t have the luxury of time to get healthy. Getting healthy and hot at the right time won’t be enough for this team to make a playoff run, and ror the first time in several seasons, the Capitals are facing an uphill battle simply to make the playoffs. This time they’ll have to start doing it without several of their big guns.