First Things First -- Tracee Hamilton on the Caps losing ways

Apr 01, 2010

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

The longest losing streak in town belongs to ... the Caps? Stunning. The Wizards ended theirs last night in New Orleans, but the playoff-bound Caps -- who host the Thrashers tonight at the Verizon Center -- have lost three straight.

Time to panic? Hardly. But the Caps are starting games slow -- giving up nine first-period goals and scoring just on in those three losses. That's a problem that could be magnified in the playoffs. I think the Caps clinched a bit too early and are just champing at the bit to get to the playoffs. And I pooh-pooh the idea of a burgeoning goaltending controversy. How about you?

Hello! What's your thought/insider-knowledge on the goalie situation for the playoffs? Regardless of Theodore's recent (temporary, I believe) struggles in goal, I think he's the right choice.

He'll get his groove back - he tends to pull through when the Caps need him. On a separate note, how much of the Caps recent slide is due to goalkeeping vs. unfocused defence? Thanks for your thoughts!

Morning, everyone! Let's get started.

It's so easy to blame the goalie when things go wrong. There's no doubt Theodore has had his struggles, but he's not the sum total of the concern. I agree that this is temporary, for him and for the Caps. I think it's more a case of the yips than anything else, or boredom, maybe. I think they are itching to start the playoffs but of course looking ahead is always a bad idea.

The real concern I have re the goaltending is that Varlamov has been less than stellar off the bench. That's a hard role to fill but if both those guys are down at the same time, the Caps could have problems.

That said, I think they right the ship tonight against Atlanta.

Hi Tracee - thanks for the wonderful Caps coverage! My question has to do with the Capitals recent goaltending. With both Theodore and Varlamov seemingly in a funk, is it possible that Neuvirth could play a role in the playoffs, or is that simply too big of a risk? Thanks for taking my question.

Hi yourself! I think that might be too big a risk. That's a big stage for Neuvirth and if he wets the bed, you've messed up his head and maybe cost yourself a game. The Caps have two talented goalies; one of them has to pull it together for the playoffs. And I really think they will.

In Capitals Insider, there were a couple quotes related to how the Caps' recent slide happens to coincide with Brooks Laich's first missed games in a billion years. Is it possible that Brooks is the key? How could one guy be that important! (And how could it not be Alex Ovechkin?)

It is certainly possible. Of course Ovechkin is a key for the Caps but Brooks is, too. Boudreau was talking Monday morning about how he keeps looking for Laich on the bench to put him in because he can fill any role for him. That's a high compliment from a guy not prone to give a lot of them.

The good news is that he's itching to come back. His eyeball still looks awful, though. Can't believe he won't wear a visor.

Hi Tracee. Thanks for your great coverage of the Caps. My question is regarding the Caps slow starts. Do you think the biggest reason for them is not because the Caps are lacking intensity, but rather that all the teams they're facing in these games are desperate to either make the playoffs or improve their seeding? Hopefully come playoff time, the Caps will be able to match that intensity and use the home crowd to their favor.

Oh, yes, that's part of the equation. They are playing teams with something still to win/prove. Obviously the Caps don't have a lot of incentive other than the Presidents' Trophy and getting Ovechkin the scoring title.

Two of their three losses have come at home, which surprises me a bit. That can't happen very often in the playoffs.

I am worried about the Caps, their goalie is cold, that is VERY VERY bad in the playoffs, reassure me that I am wrong., please!

Really? You want me to tell you you're wrong? Okay, you're wrong! Theodore is struggling now but we've got, what, two weeks before the playoffs begin? That's a long time. It's too early to panic.

There, did that really help?

I don't think there's a goalie controversy, but hypothetically: Barring injury, do you think there's a possible scenario that would thrust Varlamov into the starting role? Also, do you think Ovechkin is playing tentatively lately?

If the Caps start the playoffs and Theodore is soft, I could see Boudreau giving Varlamov a start to get Theodore's attention. Shouldn't have to do that, and I don't know Theodore well enough to psychoanalyze him, but he might be a guy who needs that kind of push.

But I do think that this is a team that's "been there" and that they'll be more than ready when that puck drops. Speaking of which...

Any chance BB would go back in time and use his line ups before the trades ? This could give us the chance in regards to the new players interfering with the chemistry the line ups had .

I would also like to see the players have a review of last years game 7 by watching the entire game tape. Let them be reminded of the aching pain they had for 3 weeks after the game. I can remember them on the ice after game 7 watching the penguins celebrate , then after the penguins left the capitals stick around so the crowd could say goodbye to them . Do you remember that? They need to see this again and if they do this lack luster end of the season will stop ASAP.

I doubt he'd use the pre-trade lines. I think he really wants to get those guys involved. Then again, he put Knuble on the shootout, so he's a surprising guy.

I think he might save that Game 7 tape in case he thinks the team is going off the rails later in the playoffs. I also think those guys remember that horrible moment as well as you do. But for some teams, that's a good motivator. I trust Boudreau to figure that out; he's a clever fellow.

I can see how Laich could miss the Pittsburgh and maybe even the Carolina game after taking a puck to the face. But isn't Boudreau sending a mixed message to the team trying to get them ready for the playoffs but holding Laich out because of an injury that wouldn't have kept him out of a playoff or really, really, important regular season game? Because let's face it, the players know that if Sunday's and Tuesday's game meant anything, Laich would have been playing, but because Boudreau doens't show any urgency with his lineup choices, they players don't show any urgency with their play.

Well, I think Boudreau, in a perfect world, would like to rest everybody. This is allowing him to rest Laich without upsetting Laich (just giving him a game off wouldn't make him happy; those guys do not want days off, as Knuble made clear to me). Ovie got his rest via suspension.

I think we'll see Laich soon because you don't want his first game back to be game 1 of the first round. And in fairness to the team, those games didn't mean much to them. But they were home games, so they meant a lot to the fans.

I'm becoming more and more convined that while Alex Ovechkin returned from Vancouver, the MVP of the national hockey league is still standing on the ice in Vancouver......Thoughts?

If the individual races end up the way they look right now, it'd be hard to argue with Sedin as MVP.

I realize I didn't answer the previous question about Ovechkin being tentative. That drives me crazy when people only answer half the question, so sorry. I don't think Ovechkin has played with as much fire the past couple of games. Not sure if it's tentative or if it's the same affliction as everyone else -- bored and wanting the playoffs to start. Let's all take a close look tonight and perhaps answers will be revealed.

Hi Tracee. My question is: Are the Capitals built for the playoffs? Entertaining, high scoring team in the regular season, to be sure. But what about a long run toward the Cup when goals are tougher to come by?

The age-old question. Is there another sport that changes so dramatically between the regular season and the playoffs?

As a former Detroiter, I follow the Wings, and I know this was a problem with some of their very good teams. For fans who got used to breezing through the regular season, it's jarring to get eliminatedt in the first round by the Devils when you're favored to win the whole thing. (I think I'm remembering that right.)

Can the Caps make it through? Yes, I think they can. The goaltending has to shape up and they have to be healthy, really healthy, all across the board.

Speaking of the trades -- how do you think the guys we picked up are doing? And if you had to hedge your bets, who's going to get left out come the playoffs -- new guys or old ones?

I think it's a little early on some of these guys. They are trying to adjust to being here and Boudreau is trying to figure out where they best fit in. That's the downside of making all these deals.

I think when push comes to shove you go with the guys you know. But then Boudreau is cagey; he could surprise us.

Hi Tracee. Do you think Ted Leonsis can do for the Wizards what he's done for the Caps?

Well, this is something I've been thinking about. It's so apples and oranges. Hockey has a big roster; basketball doesn't. Hockey has a farm system; basketball, for all intents and purposes, doesn't. Hockey has a big, deep draft, basketball doesn't. It's going to be a different approach and you can't build a team entirely through the draft; there isn't enough fodder and not enough really good fodder.

The good news is, Leonsis knows all that.

Where I think his experience will translate across to the NBA is in the fan experience and being really involved day to day. He already knows the arena and he knows how to get people in the seats and make them happy. He attends games and doesn't sit up high on a throne; he walks around and notices problems and fixes them. That aspect of his ownership will carry over just fine.

What is Monday's biggest story? National championship, opening day or Tiger?

I'm going with Opening Day. But then, my team isn't in Indy and while Tiger will be doing something, it isn't the first round. I want to see him play golf. If Strasburg were starting, can you imagine?

Hello Tracee! There has been a ton of concerned words floating around the Internet regarding Ovechkins recent play post-Olympics. His 4 goals in 14 games has been incredibly uncharacteristic of him and his lack of game-changing antics has been concerning to me as a fan.

Some people think he has been figured out by the opponent (I doubt this is possible), others think he is having post-tramatic-russia-losing-syndrom, others wonder whether the responsibility of having the C on his chest is weighing him down, and some think he needs to lose weight and get back to that nimble body frame he had when he first broke into the league.

What are your thoughts on his play going forward? Any thoughts?

I'm sure Russia's implosion affected him; boy, did they look awful. I was at that game and couldn't believe it.

I do not think the C is weighing on him.

I would like to see him make  a couple fewer hard hits a game and focus more on his scoring. Although I will admit I like to watch him hit. I think he needs those extra few pounds if he's going to keep engaging like he does.

That Olympic break was unfortunate for some people and fortunate for others. I think he's one who was hurt by it; he was on such a tear and then looked pretty average in Vancouver. But he needs to snap out of it or the Caps will not go far. He is smart enough to know that. He didn't get the Olympic gold medal; he needs to focus now on the Cup.

Oops, we're out of time. Sorry I didn't get to all your questions. Join me again tomorrow morning when perhaps we'll be discussing the end of the Caps' losing streak.

In This Chat
Tracee Hamilton
Tracee Hamilton has worked at the Post since 1993, toiling in office obscurity as an editor before someone said, "Hey, you've got a lot of opinons and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from geneology to Nordic combined to Kansas basketball. If ever there was a Jayhawk who once flew off a ski jump, she'd know where he was buried.

Her list of pet peeves is considerably longer, but includes Missouri basketball and poor subway etiquette. She welcomes dissenting opinions -- in the way Great Whites welcome open-water swimmers.

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