Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Alexander Ovechkin has 29 goals this season for Washington.

The next closest guy on the stats sheet has only 18.

How do you defend the Washington Capitals? I’ll give you three guesses…

The dismissal of Bruce “Grab Your Sack” Boudreau and the appointment of former player and tough-guy Dale Hunter to the head coaching spot earlier this season does not seem to have had the desired effect with respect to the Capitals’ position in the standings. At the start of today’s action, Washington still clings to the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, but is very much in danger of losing that spot to both the surging Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres. Their last 10 games they are 6-3-1, but looking at the wider view of the last 45 days, and you see that the Caps are barely above .500.

What’s the problem here? The Caps’ goaltending is adequate at best, and calamitous at worst. Sure, the tandem have recorded 7 shutouts on the season. But they have also allowed 5 goals or more a whopping 14 times. Makes the shutout statistic look rather insignificant. Offense is consistently inconsistent, as the team has been shut out in 5 games and rarely scores more than 3 goals.

Statistically, the Caps aren’t excelling at anything. They sit at or below the middle of the pack in all offensive and defensive categories. Whatever this team concept is, they aren’t executing it. But in my opinion, there’s no fixing this team until you remedy one problem.

Ovechkin is not a leader, he’s a prima donna. He’s a look-at-me-aren’t-I-wonderful diva who cares little about the team and concerns himself with nothing but his own interests. Ovechkin is no more a captain than Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo; the Canucks finally learned that lesson, and look what happened! They went to the Stanley Cup finals. Until you take the “C” off Ovie’s sweater, this team is doomed to failure. Will Hunter figure that out? Who knows. But until he does, this team will not be a threat.

The Blackhawks, for their part, took on a Dallas team on Friday that normally gives them fits and took control early. Scoring 2 goals in the opening 1:40, Chicago built a 4-0 lead while manhandling a Stars team that looked shell-shocked at the maelstrom that had beset them. This is the hallmark of this Blackhawks team: dominate in one game, disappear the next.

Up until the Dallas tilt, the Blackhawks had been playing in what-will-we-ever-do-without-our-captain mode. It appeared from the opening face-off on Friday that the team had finally resigned themselves to the fact that they would have to play the rest of the season without Captain Jonathan Toews. Whether that proves to be true or not remains to be seen; but the sooner the team gets into a groove in his absence, the better. Friday was a solid start. Let’s hope that mind-set continues tonight.

Administrative nonsense: Center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Tom Poti are both out for Washington, and despite returning from injury to lose a close contest against Winnipeg on Friday, goaltender Tomas Vokoun is sitting this one out. Rookie Braden Holtby has arrived on the bus from Hershey, he will ride the pine tonight. For Chicago, we are still without the services of defensemen Steve Montador and Sami Lepisto, and as mentioned, Jonathan Toews. Between the pipes it’s Michael Neuvirth for the Capitals; the Blackhawks give Corey Crawford his second straight start.

National broadcast in the U.S. tonight, so it’s a family-friendly 6:00pm start time at the UC. It’s a no-blackout game tonight, so everyone will see the game on NBC SportsNet (formerly Versus). WGN AM-720 has your radio broadcast; XM subscribers will find the game on channel 212; and Sirius Premiere customers can tune in on channel 211.

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