Capitals Prospects Working Hard

By Josh Land

Two words describe the Washington Capitals’ four games in six night
stretch between
the All-Star Break and Olympic Break: “hard work.” Washington went
undefeated (3-0-1),
taking 7 of 8 points during the most critical part of their season.

Prior to
the All-Star Break, the
Capitals’ season seemed like a lost cause. The team had lost 7 of 8 games
and was struggling to
produce offensively. The worst part of the team’s slide was a complete lack
of effort. Now,
entering the Olympic Break, the team is working harder than they have all
season and the team’s
youth is a very large part of the newfound commitment to playing spirited,
smart hockey.

During the last days before the Olympic Break, the Capitals added two
more young
players to the roster, recalling forward Glen Metropolit and goaltender
Sebastien Charpantier
(to replace the injured Olaf Kolzig) from Portland. Charpantier did not play
in any games during
his brief stint with the Caps and Metropolit played in both games against
Tampa Bay during his
time with Washington. During the second half of Monday night’s 3-1 victory
over Tampa Bay,
Metropolit was very effective playing on Jaromir Jagr’s left wing. Despite
having no points in
the game, he finished with a +2 defensive rating. If Metropolit can maintain
the intensity with
which he played during the first two games of this stint with the Caps, he
may be able to hold
onto a place on the team’s top line.

During the four game unbeaten streak, no young player has been more
impressive than
forward Colin Forbes. In the last four games, Forbes has scored 2 goals and
1 assist with a +1
defensive rating. He scored the game winning goal in Tampa Bay on Saturday,
chasing Russian
Olympic goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, from the net in the middle of the 2nd
period. Forbes has
begun to use his size more to his advantage as he has amassed 6 hits in the
last four games and
has been playing much more solid defensively. He has also made greater use
of his speed during
the streak, which has led to his recent offensive contributions. With his
intense work ethic and
developing chemistry with forward Chris Simon during the last few games,
Colin Forbes has
helped to provide the legitimate scoring threat from the third line which the
team has lacked for
most of the season.

On the defensive end, Todd Rohloff and J.F. Fortin have continued to play
defensively. Rohloff sat out of the last two games due to a wrist injury,
but in the previous two
games, he had an even defensive rating and 1 hit while averaging about 13:30
ice-time per game.
Rohloff has continued to play almost error-free hockey, assuming the same
role Joe Reekie had
as one of the Capitals’ most steady defensemen. J.F. Fortin has continued to
impress with his
speed and physical defensive style. Over the last four games, Fortin has a
-1 defensive rating
with 8 hits and 2 PIMs while averaging about 18:45 ice-time per game. Along
with Capitals’
captain Brendan Witt, Fortin has provided the Caps with a very steady and
physical top
defensive pairing. Fortin continues to improve his two-way game, but so far,
he has mostly
impressed with his defensive play. Both Rohloff and Fortin have shown why
General Manager
George McPhee wants to keep them on the top team for the remainder of the
season. Both
defensemen will be mainstays in the lineup if they continue to play with the
effort and hard-
nosed style with which they have played over the course of the last week

Due to the great effort and improved work ethic of the Caps’ team
(especially in their
young players), the Capitals have returned to playoff contention, entering
the NHL’s Olympic
Break only 5 points out of 7th and 8th place in the Eastern Conference and
only 8 points behind
the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes. Playing with desperation
and getting great
contributions from the aforementioned players, the Capitals are poised to
make a playoff run
following the two week layoff.