Standing still to move forward

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, of Russia, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green (52) in overtime of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, in Washington. Skating at rear from left to right are New York Islanders\' Matt Moulson (26), Travis Hamonic (3) and Andrew MacDonald (47). The Capitals won 3-2. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Jonathan Warner, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – The Capitals came up empty at the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline, so — for better or worse — this is their team going forward.

And, that’s not such a bad thing.

Deadline deals don’t guarantee anything. The best example of it paying off for the Caps came in 2008, when they acquired center Sergei Fedorov and goalie Christobal Huet.

Both were huge down the stretch when the Caps won their last seven games, all with Huet in net, and 12 of 13 to capture the Southeast Division Title in Bruce Boudreau’s thrilling run.

The Capitals made no moves the following year in 2009 and compiled the second best record in the East while reaching the second round of the playoffs.

The next two years, they had great regular season success and their deadline moves were supposed to position them for long playoff runs.

That didn’t happen.

In 2010, with the Capitals compiling the best record in the NHL, they added center Eric Belanger, defenseman Joe Corvo and winger Scott Walker. All three had very little impact as the Caps suffered a shocking first round exit to Montreal.

Last year, the Capitals acquired center Jason Arnott, defenseman Dennis Wideman and winger Marco Sturm. Wideman missed the playoffs with a leg injury, Arnott didn’t recover fully from a knee surgery in March and Sturm had one playoff goal.

This campaign, Washington is battling just to secure a postseason berth similar to 2008.

A center or another scoring option would have helped, but General Manager George McPhee felt the asking price was too high from the few teams that were out of the playoff chase.

You can’t argue with that logic. Why sell the farm for one shot at the prize?

This may be a disappointing season for the Capitals, but it’s far from over. They appear to be finding their groove and I still think they’ll win the Southeast division.

They’re getting solid goaltending from both Tomas Vokoun and Michael Neuvirth. Mike Green’s return has improved the defense and powerplay. Alexander Semin is playing his best hockey of the season. Alex Ovechkin is looking like the Great Eight again.

Besides, look who the Capitals are chasing. Florida and Winnipeg are not exactly Stanley Cup contenders.

Yes, I miss the high-flying, high-scoring Capitals of recent years. If this team continues to play solid defense and opportunistic offense with energy, they should not only make the playoffs, but could make some noise once they get there, especially if Nicklas Backstrom returns. That would be the best addition they could make.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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