Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Michael Nylander -- The Square Peg in the Round Hole

Awhile back, Bruce Boudreau described Viktor Kozlov as "that round peg in that round hole," citing his size, playmaking and ability to draw defenders as keys to the Capitals game plan, despite a dip in point production this season.

You'd be hard pressed to see Boudreau make such a comment about Michael Nylander, the Swedish center who has handcuffed the Caps with his infamous no movement clause.

For much of the 2008-2009 season, Michael Nylander has been the opposite of Kozlov: His style of play doesn't fit the Caps system, he's had a carousel of linemates and his "circle-first, shoot-later" style has slowed down the Capitals rather than helped them. Fans lament about his line pairings, which frequently match him with players who can drive the net or set up for rebounds, but he never shoots for them.

In more ways than one, Michael Nylander simply doesn't fit this Capitals team's makeup. But to be fair, Nylander does have 22 assists, three less than Kozlov's 25, so to say he's the worst Capital on the team isn't completely justified.

So would it surprise you if I told you that Nylander could be a game changer when the playoffs roll around?

Consider this: Of all current Capitals skaters, Sergei Fedorov's 169 career playoff games leads the team in postseason experience. Nylander is the third most experienced Caps forward in the postseason with 44 games (Brashear is second). In those games, he's registered 12 goals, 22 assists for 34 points and is a plus two.

OK, but that was Nylander then; how about Nylander now?

The key difference in the Nylander we have now, and the Nylander who averaged over a point a game with the Rangers in their postseason attempt two years ago is his linemates. On that team, he was centering Jaromir Jagr; on the current Caps team, it's a rotation of Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, a Hershey call-up and the press box.

In Nyles' defense, he hasn't had much of a line to gel with, but when you have guys like Fehr and Laich, dirty workers who specialize in dirty goals, you simply need to shoot more often to make those guys effective. Unfortunately, shooting isn't Nylander's forte.

The Capitals desperately need secondary scoring; they simply cannot expect Ovechkin, Green and Semin to provide every goal in the postseason. If Nylander can find his groove in the postseason, it could change the Capitals' offensive makeup from a two-line scoring team to a three-line scoring team.

The playoffs are a chance to start anew, and for Nylander a few key assists or a timely goal would wash away his regular season sins -- at least for a moment.


  1. Can't wait for all the haters to jump on the Nylander bandwagon if he scores a few goals or gets a few points. All that "omg he suxs so much!" will change to "oh man so glad he's here." At least you can say "told you so."

  2. few goals in playoffs won't change the fact that he really hasn't play the way someone making his money and having his career stats should've

  3. Well a few goals in the playoffs will temporarily give Nylander some fan-fare, but considering his salary, we should be getting 50-60 point seasons. But we also should get that out of Kozlov, but I can't say I'm displeased by his 37 points this year.

  4. @sleza

    If he scored the game winner in a game 7, you'd probably stop caring about his regular season in a heart beat at least for a few days.

  5. @ anonymous

    First bad regular season and then give swedish media reason to write only about him for the next 4 months? I would hate him after that. The Cup might ease my suffering but still...

  6. Nylander needs to take a hike. I hear people bitching about Kozlov and I'm just like wtf. I mean do you watch the games? He's on the OV line with Fedorov and he actually has some chemistry. I hope Nylander is not around at the start of next season. I cringe everytime he touches the puck.


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