For many seasons, Caps fans have been equal parts dazzled and frustrated with the winger that is #28, Alexander Semin. Semin has been seen to possess a gift of a shot, lightning fast hands and the ability to control a puck in the corners that is rare at the NHL level. But we’ve also seen the lazy Semin; the one who takes unnecessary offensive zone penalties and seems to disappear for games at a time. We’ve figured out why.
Semin wants to play center.
Think about it. Sasha is an incredibly underrated passer and has become an above average defensive forward, especially in the area of takeaways. When Semin’s game is on, he looks and acts the part of Pavel Datsyuk: the toe-drags, the stop-and-start shiftiness and the deadly shot. He can create time and space for his teammates and we’ve certainly seen that he can finish with the best in the league. When Semin looks bored it’s probably because he is. He’s played winger for his entire time in DC but he secretly yearns to take face-offs and play the pivot position. His body, beaten up by working along the boards, gets a break playing between the hashmarks. He wants to pass more and be a sneaker scorer by joining the rush a little later. More than anything, Sasha wants a challenge.
Of course, he’ll need help with his face-offs, coming in at near 30% for the season. But he has great hand-eye coordination and stick skills and will catch on quickly. Defensively, Semin always looks bored standing next to defensemen who rarely get the puck. He wants to get more involved in the play and letting him play lower in the middle and behind the net lets him stay active at all times. No more ‘Daydreaming of Pretty Flowers’ Sasha. We may finally see ‘Intense and Focused’ Sasha.
Think of it: Backstrom, Semin and Johansson would give the Capitals depth at the Center position that would be unseen in the league. It frees up space for the plethora of young wingers toiling in the minors and makes each line deadly. Like ‘Pittsburgh if Jordan Staal were unleashed’ deadly. It could work. Think of the lines (for example):
If it worked, it would be a match-up nightmare for any opposing team in the league. Three lines that could dominate play in the offensive zone and three lines that would be able to defend well too.
So give Sasha a chance. Challenge him and he’ll show a side to his game that we have yet to see. And that could be very exciting.