Welcome back to "Capital Letters," an aptly titled and sporadic feature in which I answer any and all questions regarding the local professional hockey team. Please send all questions to @AdamVingan and follow me anyway because my mother will think that I'm more popular.
If I may, let me set a scene for you.
It's Tuesday evening. The Capitals are whipping the Los Angeles Kings at Verizon Center. There I sit in the press box, Alex Prewitt a few seats to my right, spinning journalistic gold as per usual and providing more material for a second edition of "Prew Or False." To my left was multimedia superstar Chuck Gormley, indulging me by discussing the artistry of Left Shark. Oh, I was watching the game too, tweeting ridiculous observations using dated pop culture references that you all liked for some reason.
What does this have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. But while all of that was going on, general manager Brian MacLellan was also watching intently as he further evaluated his team with the trade deadline less than a month away on March 2.
"I think when you win a game like that, you get a little excited, see some different line combinations," MacLellan told Al Koken during a Wednesday morning ESPN 980 appearance. "You have some thoughts in your mind on how you can improve the team, and all of a sudden you play a game like that, and you say maybe we should leave it alone. In the end, we're going to have to make some decisions. The forward mix has always been area for me, we've got some good players, and I think if we added one piece or got the chemistry right on a couple of the lines it would go a long way to improving our team."
By now, you know that eight different players have skated with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on Washington's first line (and if you didn't, now you know). MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz were both impressed by Marcus Johansson, who took a turn Tuesday, but to paraphrase an old football saying, if you have eight first-line wings, you don't have one.
Call me crazy (though I have certainly been called much worse), but what about Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane? I preface this spiel by saying it is a totally speculative exercise, but trade rumors tend to follow Kane around, though so far they have been unsubstantiated. Jets coach Paul Maurice scratched him Tuesday for reportedly showing up to a team meeting in sweats instead of a suit.
He has 10 goals, 22 points and a 52.8 even-strength Corsi percentage this season, but carries a $5.25 million salary-cap charge, which would require some movin' and shakin' from MacLellan. Of course, while Kane inhabited the Southeast Division with the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers, he tortured the Capitals, scoring 10 goals in 21 career games. That segues nicely into...
How's that for a seamless transition? Self-aggrandizing aside, Peters, who won four of his seven appearances against the Capitals with a 1.67 goals-against average and two shutouts as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, has not been as impenetrable in relief of Braden Holtby.
Peters is 2-5-1 in nine appearances this season, his 3.58 GAA and .870 save percentage eliciting groans from fans upon learning of his starts. Against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, Peters made 36 saves, but three of the four goals scored on him were the result of iffy rebound control, which he has struggled with this season.
"This business is all about results and I didn’t get the results," Peters said Sunday. "They have every right to talk and say what they want."
Peters' teammates and Trotz, meanwhile, offered praise for his effort considering the uncertain nature of his schedule, which often finds him starting the second of back-to-back games. Seven of Peters' eight starts have come in such a situation, with five of those seven against rested teams.
"The guy battles back there," forwards Brook Laich said. "We've got to pick him up. We’ve got to get him that game. ...We’re hanging him out to dry. It’s not acceptable."
But, as Peters succinctly said Sunday, "That's what I signed up for." That same day in Hershey, Philipp Grubauer pitched a 26-save shutout for the Bears. Grubauer acquitted himself admirably last season in the NHL, starting 14 games with a 2.38 GAA and .925 save percentage. He has a 2.03 GAA and four shutouts with Hershey this season, earning an AHL All-Star selection for his strong play.
So why, many of you have asked, is Grubauer there and Peters here? The point of signing Peters as a nonthreatening backup to Holtby was to provide Grubauer with ample playing time in a starting role. Peters can spectate for month-long stretches. Grubauer's development is ongoing and should continue unimpeded.
That said, that doesn't mean that the Capitals couldn't call up Grubauer to make a impromptu start that wouldn't confict with the AHL's weekend-heavy schedule, but Peters will likely remain in Washington for the rest of the season barring injury.
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