When the Capitals decided not to give another year to enforcer Donald Brashear, their reasoning was simple; We just don't need a tough guy in the line up anymore. While good in theory, over the past few games the Caps seemed to played in some of the chippiest games ever.
In the past three games, the Caps leading scorer and franchise player has been victimized by cheap shots and after-the-play shenanigans. The pushes after the whistles, the snide remarks between players, the face washes and more seems to happen with regular occurrence. With Brashear in the line up, the teams didn't go after Alex Ovechkin or Mike Green or Alex Semin.
In the Columbus game, Jason Chimera took exception to the hit by Ovechkin. That led to some uncalled cross checks and slashes and the referees seemed to let it go. What resulted was a shove by Chimera on Ovi as he was leaving the ice for the bench after the whistle. Ovechkin gave a shove right back and a scrum ensued. Ovechkin was called for two minutes for roughing and would later be injured.
Against the New York Islanders, tough guy Tim Jackman seemed to slash and pick on Caps' players at will. He might have been called for a few of those infractions, but for the most part he did what he wanted. After a knee on knee hit with an Islander player, Green got a shot in the same leg by Jackman as they were setting up for the face-off. No penalty, and Jackman did it again as soon as the puck dropped.
The Caps have had their fair share of chippy games against lesser teams. Knowing those teams can't match the Capitals' skill, they much rather get under the skin of the best players. With no one to police that kind of thing, the Caps are left to deal with it on their own. So far, it has been a poor job.
One of the reasons Caps' management went with out a tough guy enforcer was, they felt, they had a pretty good power play. Teams would never be chippy if they were called for the infractions if they knew they would be scored against. But the power play has been less than stellar allowing more goals against than goals for with the extra man.
The Capitals also lack a spark that a fight sometimes brings to a game. When the game becomes stagnate , a fight can sometimes energize the bench. The benefits from a fight sort of breaks that tension where there is no real momentum swing.
It is still early, and maybe teams will stop the cheap stuff when it starts to get more serious as teams fight for playoff spots. But for now it is a issue the Caps have to face as teams may feel it is the only strategy that will help them win the game. A poke here, a cross check there and the Caps can only grin and bear it.