Saturday, October 6, 2007

A good start

The Caps opener last night revealed a good bit about the Capitals as they are currently composed.

First, Nicklas Backstrom looked, well, like a rookie, making several strong plays but also missing a couple chances that would have resulted in scoring opportunities. Now that's not to say his chances were easy, as one memorable situation in front of the Thrashers net would have required him to pivot 180 degrees in front of the net and tip the puck with his stick on the backhand side. That's certainly not something you would expect from any second or third line player, much less a 19 year old rookie. But young Backstrom showed just enough in reacting to the play and almost getting a stick to the puck that it looks likely he'll be the kind of special player that can actually make that play once he matures.

Second, Brent Johnson needs to settle down. A LOT. He had a solid game (although he did allow a soft floating backhand to deflect off of him and into the net) but the team needs him to be more confident in his motions in order to establish confidence in him. For a goalie who plays in a relatively orthodox style, he flops around entirely too much. Gaining the confidence of your teammates can be as important to a backup as stopping the puck, and until Johnson can stop making routine stops look difficult, he's not going to do that.

Third, the Deuce looked at me midway through the second period and said "I don't want to jinx it, but we've played almost the entire game in their end." I honestly cannot remember that sentiment expressed in the past 2 seasons. Whether the Caps can keep up this kind of game against more physical opposition remains to be seen, but last night truly looked like we were the better team that earned the two points.

It's also great to see two of our three summer signings pot goals (Kozlov on the deflection, Nylander on a quick wrister after a turnover) in their first game of the year. It certainly made George McPhee look like a genius.

Our shutdown line wasn't perfect, but they were solid throughout the game.

Alex Ovechkin looked primed and ready for a 50+ goal campaign. He shot at every opportunity, which is exactly what he needs to do.

There was, however, one glaring issue. The power play stunk. They had two extended 5 on 3 chances and looked terrible in both. They simply did not adjust when Atlanta pulled all three players to the goal mouth. A more comfortable unit would have spread out and passed around the outside of the defenders until one of them had a scoring chance (which they did) and ACTUALLY SHOT THE PUCK, which they did not. And why is the powerplay not pushing the puck more to the left side? From what I hear the Caps have a pretty good player on that wing. They should be forcing plays to that side, because that's where the goals are going to come from.

All in all, a very good start to the season. Home opener is tonight at 7 against Carolina. Tickets here. See you there.


TJ said...

I would say the PP stunk, it was the first game and they still need to gain their identity.

They had good puck movement just not enough shots.

3 Grumpy Caps fans said...

I think it's fair to say that right now. I don't expect it to stay that way over the course of the season, but for now they still look too passive in their efforts.

They simply cannot allow teams to kill 5 on 3s consistently. They haven't been burned by it yet, but you can only let teams off the hook so many times before they make you pay.