Keith Aucoin and Jeff Schultz ought to be commended for their efforts in the first three games of this series.
Aucoin entered the playoffs on a two-game point streak, but the 5-foot-8, 169 pound forward just hasn't provided much of anything to help the Caps during the current series except for good cycle work in game one. He has registered just one shot in the three games, and has a plus/minus rating of -2. (Joel Ward has four shots while playing six minutes less than Aucoin, critics of Ward)
His frame certainly doesn't provide much of a physical presence in front of the net, either. However, one thing that can be said about Aucoin is that he has two hits in the series, two more than 6-foot-6 Jeff Schultz.
That's right. One of the tallest players on the ice, a defenseman nonetheless, has a total of zero hits in three games. Not one time has Schultz bodied a forward off the puck, or given a hard shot to a Bruin against the boards in a corner battle.
While Schultz has moved the puck very well (one of his strengths), his lack of speed on the back-end coupled with his non-physical play are dangerous areas of concern. He is tied with Dennis Wideman for a team-worst rating of -4, and had quite a few mistakes in game three.
Again, Capitals 101 does think both of these players can be (and were at some points) valuable to this Caps team. Just not for game four.
When asked by reporters about Alexander Semin's power play goal in the first period last night, Tim Thomas answered:
"I didn't see it. Was it five hole?"
Thomas wasn't able to pick it up because Brooks Laich was parked right in front of him at the net. That is precisely how the Capitals can beat the all-star, with traffic in front.
Say, isn't that Mike Knuble guy pretty good in front of the net? (see photo above)
Doesn't that same guy have 274 career goals in over 1,000 regular season games, and 54 games of playoff experience?
Simply put, Free Knuble.
His physical presence must be summoned in game four. Not only that, but the wisdom and experience Knuble brings to the Capitals really can't be measured. Even if he doesn't record a point, he will be in the face of Tim Thomas all game and certainly won't be afraid to mix it up physically with the Bruins. He's also a tremendous shot-blocker. (something Dale Hunter has harped on)
A rookie defenseman also should be put in the lineup, but for the complete opposite reason than Knuble.
Dmitry Orlov registered 19 points in 60 games for the Capitals this season, but hasn't been given a taste of his first playoff action. It's time to find out how Orlov reacts to the pressure. Why would you want to wait until next year to see if Orlov can perform in the playoffs?
Give the kid a chance, and see what he can do. We already know he is a tremendous skater who isn't afraid to lay some big hits, and has the ability to produce offensively. Sure, that Wideman-Orlov combo isn't ideal, but is it really worse than Wideman-Schultz?
Down 2-1 in the series, the Capitals need a spark to even things up or will find themselves in danger of being on the brink of elimination.
These two lineup changes could provide that extra boost to shift the momentum in Washington's favor.
Roster Update: Nicklas Backstrom will be suspended for game four on Thursday. In light of this, nothing changes with the opinion of Capitals 101 on the roster moves. Because Backstrom is out, Jeff Halpern should take his place in the lineup, and play as the fourth line center.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Dennis Wideman, Dmitry Orlov, Hockey, Jeff Schultz, Joel Ward, Keith Aucoin, Mike Knuble, NHL, Washington, Washington Capitals