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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is it time for fresh troops?

With the uninspired play displayed by several Capitals in Game 5, it might be time to deploy new soldiers for Game 6.  The first reason is the players who were benched will be raring to go, the second reason being the players who get benched will be raring to go the next time they play.

The question becomes, what do the Capitals have on the bench and what does that mean for the lineup?

Center David Steckel is a known quantity in these playoffs, having already appeared in the first two games of the series.  He had a +1 rating, no points or penalties, and won 14 of 24 faceoffs (58.3%). 

#39 David Steckel

Should Steckel return to the lineup, he would likely center the fourth line.  Boyd Gordon replaced Steckel after Game 2 because Boudreau wanted more speed at that position and because Gordon shoots right and Steckel shoots left, even though Steckel is much larger at 6'5, 217.  Gordon would likely move to the wing on either the third or fourth lines, depending on who comes out.  It is doubtful Gordon would move any higher since coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't consider him an offensive player, even after his ridiculous shorthanded scoring spree in Games 3 and 4. 

Steckel's playoff history suggests Steckel could come up big in a big game.  While not much of a scorer in the regular season, Steckel had 3 goals and 5 points in 14 playoff games last year. He also had a goal and 2 points against the Flyers in 2008.  In 23 playoff games, Steckel's 4 goals (.174 per game) and 7 points (.304 per game) represent a huge improvement over his regular season scoring averages (.077 Goals per game & .201 Points per game).  The biggest goal of his career was an overtime game winner in Game 6 in Pittsburgh, and Boudreau could decide to reunite the line that produced it, Steckel, Brooks Laich, and Matt Bradley

Steckel takes down Pittsburgh

Right winger Scott Walker has not yet appeared in these playoffs.  He played in 9 games for the Capitals during the regular season and 33 more for the Carolina Hurricanes.  He accepted a trade here to have a chance to play in the playoffs again and to play for his role model and former employer, Caps General Manager George McPhee.  

#24 Scott Walker

Walker is a small (5'10, 196), tough forward who plays a high energy game despite his age (36).  Only Brendan Morrison, Mike Knuble, Alexander Ovechkin have more career goals (151) and points (397) than Walker, but nobody has more penalty minutes (1,162).  Walker has had 3 seasons of 21+ goals and 51+ points, he is the kind of player who could play a game on the second line.  McPhee brought Walker in to be a depth player to play a few games.  This is one of those games.  

Walker is the kind of player who is in the right place at the right time.  In his first game with the Caps, he scored two goals in the third period to win the game.  He only has one career playoff goal in 29 games, but it was the series winner last year against Boston. 
Walker takes down Boston

Left winger Quintin Laing is a tall, lanky (6'3, 194) fearless checking forward who does all the little things right.  He checks, plays defense, and blocks shots, but he won't score very often.    He has only scored 3 goals and 11 points in 79 NHL games, though has never appeared in the NHL playoffs.  

#53 Quintin Laing

He is an excellent penalty killer, though Washington kept Montreal's powerplay from scoring for the first time in 9 games against them this season.  He was a career minor leaguer until a few years ago, and has plenty of playoff experience in the AHL.  He is very happy to be an NHLer and is excited to play every game, a lesson that several Capitals could stand to learn.  He plays fearlessly, he would rather block a shot with his face than lose

Quintin Laing breaks his face

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