The Washington Capitals are always a potential Cup favorite at the start of the season.
The Caps were projected to easily win the Southeast division, even after their disapointing first round exit to the Montreal Canadiens last season. But things have looked bad since Mike Green’s never-ending injuries and Alexander Ovechkin’s so-called slump began.
But Washington made plenty of moves before and at the 2011 NHL trade deadline, and they are paying off. And last night, the team clinched the Southeast Division title and took over first place in the Eastern Conference after its 3-2 shootout win against Toronto.
Let’s take a look at the one trade acquisition who is paying off for the Caps, and it is one that may surprise you: Dennis Wideman.
Bruins fans know this name all too well. Wideman was acquired from the St.Louis Blues four years ago for Brad Boyes, a move Bruins GM Peter Chairelli must regret. While Wideman brought them two decent seasons, his last he brought down from constant booing and jeering from the home crowd. Which is why Boston fans rejoiced at the acquistion of Nathan Horton from Florida, not only for who they got, but who they gave up. Yup, Wideman.
Wideman was a minus-26 during his tenure with Florida, and looked to be on pace for his horrenduos previous seasons. It was his career low plus/minus since his his rookie year with the Blues when he was a minus-31. And on top of it, the Panthers were going no where. They had no chance of winning, with little crowds. No inspiration to play hard every night, which weighs on a players body of work.
Meanwhile, the Capitals were struggling before the trade and were trailing the young and energetic Tampa Bay Lightning in the Southeast division. That was when coach Bruce Boudreau went to the dictonary and looked up “defense” and how to play it. And GM George McPhee helped him out by trading for Wideman at the deadline and before that he acquired Scott Hannan from Colorado in return for Tomas Fleischmann.
The reason behind the late success from the Capitals is the new two-way styles of the forwards, but Wideman has also played great. He’s picked up seven points in 14 games and has averaged 24 minutes of ice time.
Is Wideman the reason behind the Capitals sucess? No, but he brings the presence of a puck moving defenseman to the Capitals lineup, something that the team desperately needed after Green went down to injury.