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By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Topic - Joey Crabb
Hendricks had six fighting majors through the Caps' first 27 games, more than the rest of his teammates combined. He fought twice Saturday at the Boston Bruins in a game that underscored how much this team needs Hendricks to answer the bell when opponents take liberties.
It was a golden opportunity to cut into Carolina's Southeast Division lead and pick up two valuable points. A fraction of an inch separated elation from disappointment.
There's a saving grace in the Caps' 5-2-1 record against opponents out of the playoff picture because without those points they would be in an even deeper hole. But sitting 15th in the East isn't a spot they want to be in with two games coming up Thursday and Saturday against the defending conference-champion New Jersey Devils.
Mike Ribeiro has been playing the game the right way so far this season, even amid the Washington Capitals' inconsistency. He's far and away the team's leading scorer with 17 points, making the offense go even as consistent production from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom has been lacking.
After a brief switch back to the left side where he's more comfortable, Ovechkin has played the past five games where Adam Oates knows he belongs, on right wing, and the fruits of that experiment are starting to show.
He changed up his lines again Wednesday in preparation for Thursday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This time Marcus Johansson joined Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer on one line, while Alex Ovechkin remained on right wing alongside Wojtek Wolski and Mike Ribeiro.
Simply put, the Caps have lost a lot early under new coach Adam Oates. They've played poorly and lost and played well and lost.
Going into Tuesday night's game, the Washington Capitals captain had two goals and none at even strength, while the Toronto Maple Leafs forward had yet to score a goal in his first nine games of the season.
Errors by the Washington Capitals in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center illustrated what has gone wrong during a disastrous start to the season.
This one had all the makings of a Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins Classic. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma worried about Sunday's game being an afterthought with the Super Bowl hours later, but with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom all on the ice at Verizon Center, it was the center of attention in the hockey world.
Early in this season, coach Adam Oates has made it clear he's more worried about the process, or how his Washington Capitals play, than if they win. He wants to see them play the "right way," even if it's at the expense of results.
After a handful of penalties here and more than a few power-play goals by opponents there, it didn't take long for the Washington Capitals to realize they had to stay out of the box to win games. When they did that Sunday, the first victory of the season followed.
He got chances with the Washington Capitals, including last season, but now Aucoin isn't just a call-up. Claimed off waivers by the Islanders, he has three goals and an assist in six games this year and is starting to show the kind of offense he can provide at the NHL level if given the chance.
Alex Ovechkin is used to working with fellow skill players like Nicklas Backstrom and, in the past, Alexander Semin. But when the Washington Capitals step onto the ice Tuesday night at the Ottawa Senators, it's likely he'll again start on a line with grinders Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
Superstar could play with grinders again vs. Sabres as Adam Oates seeks spark.
"Not a lot of guys have that job, not a lot of guys want to do that job," right wing Joey Crabb said. "Good job on him for stepping up. Two fights, one game, and he had to fight a couple tough guys, so it's a tough job."