Welcome to Slumpville.
January 12, 2009 | Filed in: AHL, Callups, Cap Attack, NHL

Alright, that may be a little provoking, but both the Caps and the Bears are almost back to where they started the season player-wise, and all of a sudden neither can keep a consistent win streak alive.
Sean Collins and Tyler Sloan have gone back to Hershey for tonight’s game against WBS, Walton reports Jay Beagle as being close to back, both goalies are healthy, and for once, both teams have the full compliment they started the season with.

Why, then, are both teams in a half-assed win slump?

Now, don’t get me wrong, the collective is not suddenly turning into the Big Penguins, who have lost 7 out of 8 of their last games, but there’s a distinct lack of playing together going on. The Caps dropped a nine win streak at home, and the Bears have a distinct habit of sailing the failboat on road trips and then coming home and remembering what they’re doing. While they finally gave the Houston Aeros a good taste of chocolatey revenge for their drubbing in Houston, they’ve somehow in the last few days forgotten how to play the Baby Pens and the River Rats, two opponents they’ve seen a decent number of times already. And sure, with a season-best 28 of 40 victories at the halfway point, they’re not FAILING by any measure.

But I can’t help but wonder how much of it is learning again to work with different bodies in similar roles? There was a brilliant article (god help me if I can find it again) about a week ago on the role of “team chemistry” and how it might well be just a big hoax, but it seems to me that situations in which nothing much changes but the people in the lineup, “chemistry” of some sort is coming into play. The second question then brought to bear is the type of interaction chemistry this is messing up - is it a basis of having played on a line with a certain person long enough you know what they’re going to do in any given situation (aka Osala, Bouchard and Perrault) or is it a more intangible link that just seems to work? (Jurcina and Alzner.)

Obviously there’s some precedent for thinking it might just be spending time on a line with people, because after a while you HAVE to start picking up their quirks, but wouldn’t that be a plug for the Michael Therrien style of Switcho-Chango Roulette Lines that the Penguins play, always switching it up? They should all be able to play with anyone at this point the way they change mid-game, but they’re suffering through their worst slump yet.

I’m not going to spend the time completely analyzing the minutest detail, as that’s the coaches’ job, but I do think the evidence towards temporarily (fingers crossed) lackluster play has to do with readapting to the people newly coming back into the lines- Semin, Federov, Sloan, Collins, Giroux, all the callups and injuries coming back and changing the standard makeup of the team again, because it’s not just the guys coming back, it’s who they displace into where in the rest of the lines… essentially, it’s hockey’s version of the old butterfly/ripple story.

In essence, chemistry of one sort exists, whether you like it or not. Ask any social psychologist and I’m sure they’ll back me up.

And, for a strange little Hockey Links From Around The World, Marcel Hossa and Jakub Klepis both scored in the KHL All-Star game. Both were former Portland Winterhawks. Both were playing on a team with ex Bear/Capital Ben Clymer (who also scored).

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