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Examining the Washington Capitals defense

by John McGourty / NHL.com

 
 
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The Big Four

Tom Poti is another of Washington's big-ticket free-agent signings and he's expected to quarterback the power play and eat up lots of minutes. He has 58 goals and 252 points in 594 NHL games. Poti has a cannon of a shot and moves the puck well. He can play effective defense, but sometimes utilizes unorthodox defensive tactics that don't work. With Poti, you hope his assets outweigh his negatives. He's been in the minus category for most of his career, but he hasn't been on the strongest teams, either.

The Capitals have some of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL. They're battle-hardened after several years of playing as a young, overmatched group. Brian Pothier, Shaone Morrisonn, Steve Eminger and Milan Jurcina can play. Pothier led the defense and was third on the team with 25 assists. He led with 140 blocked shots and over 24 minutes of average ice time. Morrisonn averages 21 minutes, led with 112 hits, was second with 120 blocked shots and posted a career-high 104 penalty minutes. GM George McPhee probably gets an inquiry every week asking if Eminger is available. Hockey insiders love his positioning and strength. He moves the puck well, averages 19 minutes and the team went 11-2-2 when he scored a point.

Get the point

Poti was signed to quarterback the first power-play unit. He's played that role for the Rangers and the Islanders and he's good at it. He can shoot the puck a ton and he's a crafty passer. Ideally, he needs to play with a defensively responsible partner, whether that be a defenseman or a forward like Clymer, who has doubled as an NHL defenseman.

 

Pothier will likely play the point on the second unit. He's a passer, not a scorer. He had three goals and 25 assists last year. He's also less of a gambler than Poti.

In the Wings

Karl Alzner -- Selected fifth overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Alzner was dominant in the recent Russia-Canada series. He is dead-serious and mean on the ice and projects to be a future NHL First Team All Star.

Mike Green -- A first-rounder in 2004, Green skates like the wind and has good offensive skills. He's not quite there yet, but was on the AHL All-Rookie Team two years ago and had another good season last year.

Jeff Schultz -- Was Washington's other first-round blueliner chosen in 2004. He's 6-foot-6 and still growing at 215 pounds. Schultz has a history of putting up big plus numbers.

X Factor

Mike Green -- If Green has taken a step forward from a year ago and continues to progress through the season, that will give the Capitals another skilled offensive defenseman. That would also give Washington the preferred combination of three very good offensive defensemen in Poti, Pothier and Green and three solid defensive defensemen in Eminger, Morrisonn and Jurcina. The latter will be challenged by Schultz and Alzner.

Tom Poti
Caps general manager George McPhee:

"We needed a left-handed shot for the power play. (Tom Poti) is excellent on the penalty kill and he moves the puck very, very well. We felt we have some good young defensemen who are real good at shutting the other team down or are developing into those roles and will be really good at that one day, but we needed a little more skill to help us with our special teams.”
FAST FACTS
Eminger

1. Eminger was second among Washington defensemen with a goal and 16 assists.

2. Eminger, Morrisonn, Green and Schultz were all first-round draft picks.

3. Green was the only rookie defenseman on the Eastern Conference NHL YoungStars team, posting three assists and a plus-2 rating.

 


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