Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Finding Semin Linemates of His Own

There's always an air of excitement when Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin take to the ice on the same line. The "S.O.B." line they've been dubbed, for their ability to make coaches and goalies utter "son of a..." after they score.

With beautiful passing plays, laser beam shots and moments that make you rise out of your chair screaming "Did you see that!", the S.O.B. line is easily one of the most exciting lines in hockey to watch -- if they're on their game.

While their drop-pass at the blue line, behind the back look, spin-a-rama deke to pass to the slot plays are exciting, they are often excessive and lead to more turnovers than they do goals.

While the line may be one of the most productive lines the Capitals have at even strength, it turns the Capitals into a one-line team. Going into the playoffs, you can't rely on one line to take you to the Stanley Cup and win.

Consider this: At even strength the S.O.B. line has scored 47 points this season. The next best even-strength line the Capitals have to offer is the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kozlov line, which has earned 41 even strength points.

For all the passing and talented playmaking the S.O.B. line sports, it only has six points over Ovechkin's staple linemates of Kozlov and Backstrom. The good is you have a plug-and-play winger for Ovechkin. The bad is you'd rather those two numbers feature two totally different casts.

Now factor in Alexander Semin's personal point totals on lines without Alexander Ovechkin. Semin has 23 points on 14 different lines at even strength that don't feature Ovechkin. Seventeen of his 75 points have come on the S.O.B line at even strength.

If the Capitals want to be contenders, they've got to find linemates for Semin who can be just as effective as the Backstrom and Kozlov tandem for Ovie. Common players on Semin's even-strength scoring lines are Fedorov and Laich, but all three rarely are constant staples on a single line, moving between third and second frequently.

And before you ask, the "Washington Line" that the Russian national team uses has only garnered eight even-strength points before Tuesday's bout with the Thrashers. Semin only has one point on that line at even strength.

The S.O.B. line doesn't need to exist for the Capitals to win games, but it's not going to hurt them either. If the Caps need a late goal in the third, or want to pad a lead then the S.O.B line is perfect; but if the Capitals want to be at their most dangerous, they need Semin on a scoring line of his own.

If the Capitals have two prominent scoring lines, then defenses will be stretched thin to defend both a Semin-led line, and an Ovechkin-led line. Finding Semin a center of his own, just like the Capitals did for Ovie with Backstrom, would add a whole new dimension of scoring to the Capitals offense.

With 75 points this season, it's only a matter of time until Boudreau finds that perfect even-strength line for Semin. But, hey, 75 points without one staple line should speak volumes about Semin's playmaking ability.

Of course, if you don't believe me, just ask Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators how many Cups they've one with a one-line offense.

(Editor's Note: We used lines of three for the numbers, points totaled from lines of more than three forwards were not used.)


  1. Good post. I think that Semin hasn't really had his own center per-se because he's been hurt. Feds had been hurt. Nylander hasn't lived upto his contract, and for awhile it seemed like the best option was to just run him with Ovie.

    I wonder if Anton Gustafsson will grow into a top two center, or if anyone on the Bears roster can step in next year to become a #2. If Semin can stay healthy and develop chemistry with someone other than ovechkin and Backstrom, then he could be having 80+ point seasons.

  2. That's a great point your making, hopefully people see this and stop thinking the SOB line is going to be the Capitals golden line for eternity. If Semin gets a center just for him, good god.


Technorati Profile