When the CAPS traded for D.J. King this offseason, I was pumped that a bruising physical presence was being added to the lineup. Like most fans I knew he likely would not contribute many points or even many minutes (relatively speaking) to the team, but I felt that the lack of an enforcer-type player last season needed to be addressed for the 2010/2011 campaign. (I’ll reference the February 13th incident involving Quintin Laing and Cam Janssen after Janssen hit Matt Bradley. Great to see Lainger step in for his teammate, but he wasn’t exactly the ideal candidate to square off with Janssen.) What has pleasantly surprised me though is that it hasn’t been just D.J. King (only two bouts thus far this year) dropping gloves and slinging more weight than Nate Newton, but the team as a whole seems to be playing with more of an edge than last season.
The CAPS engaged in just 21 fights last season, 20 in the regular season. Only the Red Wings (19) fought less as a team than Washington. Some may attribute this to good team discipline, not allowing themselves to be baited into giving their opponents any unnecessary momentum. The 12 fighting majors in just 18 games this season points to a more physical style of play that I feel will only help us down the road. Granted 4 of those 12 came in just one contest against New Jersey. Some highlights so far include:
- Newly acquired Matt Hendricks leads the team with 4 fights. When the CAPS signed Hendricks this summer I admittedly knew little about the 29 year-old center. His career stats didn’t imply an immediate impact, but Hendricks’ blue-collar style of play has quickly made him one of my favorite players on the team.
- Mike Green entered this year with one career NHL fight. He as already dropped the gloves (and helmet per Junior Hockey etiquette) twice this year. While his fighting style against Kovalchuk resembled a kitten batting at a ball of yarn who can also headlock someone, it’s good to see Greenie ready to throw down when necessary. Matt Bradley should open up a school for fighting on skates to help Green and Semin. Hell,I’d enroll in his inaugural class for sure.
- Nicklas Backstrom has even thrown his frame around on the ice as of late, delivering a few checks against Tampa Bay’s Dominic Moore on Thursday night.
- Tyler Sloan followed suit last night against the Thrashers, according to Steve Kolbe of Capitals Radio as I listened to his emphatic call of number 89 clearing out an opponent in front of Neuvirth.
- Last and certainly not least, John Erskine and his mustache engaged in what some (Japers’ Rink; Puck Daddy) are calling the early Fight of the Year frontrunner with Eric Boulton of Atlanta.
This style of play is awesome to see out of our team. As long as they keep breaking opponents’ faces and not their own hands I hope to see this continue well into our playoff-run in 2011.