In This Corner: Capitals unbeaten since trade deadline
At the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 28, the Washington Capitals undoubtedly stole the show by acquiring center Jason Arnott from New Jersey and defenseman Dennis Wideman from Florida. The team also claimed Marco Sturm off waivers from Los Angeles previous to the deadline.
The acquisition of Arnott was arguably the best deal of the deadline. And while the Caps had to deal away faceoff master David Steckel, Arnott has made the price worth the reward.
In just his first game as a Cap, with 48 seconds left in the third period, Arnott fed the perfect pass to Brooks Laich, who then tied the game and sent it to overtime, where Alex Ovechkin would score the game-winning goal against the New York Islanders.
In his second game with the team, Arnott served an even bigger role, scoring the game-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues. And against Tampa Bay Monday night, when Nicklas Backstrom left the game early after falling on his fractured thumb, Arnott took his place on the first line between Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.
While the other two acquisitions haven’t covered the score sheet the way Arnott has, they’ve still contributed in big ways. In his first four games as a Cap, Wideman hasn’t had a negative plus or minus rating and had the primary assist on Alexander Semin’s game-tying goal against Tampa Bay. Sturm, while he was a minus one against St. Louis, is also a key component to what has now become a dominant third line. The “Wheels Line” of Jason Chimera-Sturm-Marcus Johansson, with a bit more shooting accuracy, has the potential to be a deadly threat against opponents.
Looking back at teams who have won the Stanley Cup, they’ve done so with at least three top scoring lines. While the “Wheels Line” has yet to record a goal, the fact that their getting plenty of chances and shots on goal while on the ice means that the opposing team isn’t in the Caps zone. As time continues and these players spend more time together, they’ll achieve chemistry and goals will start coming.
As for Wideman, with Tom Poti not having played a game since Jan. 12 and Mike Green out for a while, he’s the perfect player to fill the holes on the defense. He’s a puck-moving defenseman who can help corral the power play and take some of the pressure off of rookie defenseman John Carlson.
Not only have these three acquisitions helped on the score sheet, they’ve also helped off the ice. Arnott is known as being one of the more vocal leaders, and after his first game with the Caps against the Islanders, in a post-game interview he voiced that he wasn’t afraid to speak up and, if necessary, call players out. In fact, he pointed out that there were already some things that he thought needed to be fixed.
While Ovechkin is a great player and no doubt someone the players look up to, the team desperately needs a true veteran player who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and really ignite and focus this time. And that’s what Arnott brings.
With these new acquisitions starting to create chemistry, Ovechkin looking like his old, dynamic goal-scoring self, and defensive holes being filled, it looks as if the Caps can not only hold onto the Southeast Division title, but also make a viable run into the playoffs. General Manager George McPhee has given them the players. Now it’s up to the team to do the rest.