Last nights game was a tough one to watch, let alone attend as a visiting fan, which happened to be the case for me last night. The first 40 minutes of the game might have been the worst periods of hockey the Capitals have played this season, but after a strong push in the third it was still a game, and we were a Nicklas Backstrom third period wiff away from a tie game, in a game that we had no business even being close. The suspension of Orlov loomed large in the loss and fans have been quick to jump on GMGM (George McPhee) for not acquiring blue line depth at the deadline. Although Hillen did not play particularly well, being the main cause on the first goal, he will be a welcome addition to the bottom pairing, after tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins Orlov will return and can hopefully provide the same boost he has over recent weeks.
The past two days have not been all bad for the Caps though, making some moves that could help the team make a mini run and clinch a playoff berth, but not over committing to any rentals in case things go wrong. The Dustin Penner for a 4th rounder, which is the same fourth rounder that was traded for Mathieu Perralt, gives the team a solid top 6 left winger who at times can be a key piece and other times be invisible, which Penner we receive won’t be known for a few weeks. The moves that were made are not the only thing that will help the team, the possible arrival of Evgeny Kuznetsov paired with the return of Mikhail Grabovski, should help the teams secondary scoring during this critical playoff push.
Two moves that needed to be made were finally moving the players who wanted out, in Martin Erat and Michal Neuvirth.
First the Erat deal, Erat and John Mitchell for Klesla, who would later be moved in the Halak deal, Chris Brown, a young player who has had success at the AHL level scoring 29 goals last season and could immediately help on the fourth line left wing, and a fourth round pick in 2015.
The Neuvirth trade, Neuvirth and Klesla for Halak and a 2015 third rounder, was also good for the team in both the short term and the long term in a multitude of ways. First, with Holtbys confidence shaken Halak can step in and give this team a legitimate shot at the post season this year. Secondly if Halak falters it could help Holtby regain his confidence proving it was not all on him but part of the poor defensive play. Third, freeing up an additional 2.5 million cap for next year giving the Capitals some space to be players in the free agent market.
There is still hope for this season but it is fading fast, tonight’s game is a close to a must win as there has been all season.