This has been a season of new for me.
First, I have moved from the suburbs of Portland, Maine to Alexandria, VA, so living in an environment where hockey is an afterthought is absolutely foreign. Second, I am surrounded by Capitals fans, which is a nice (yet slightly bizarre) break from my norm of total Bruins immersion.
This being said, the Caps are in trouble this year if they do not make changes fast.
Having attended two Capitals games this year (the preseason game vs. Philadelphia and the regular season game vs. Edmonton), it is clear that things are not quite right in the team’s system. Their breakout is equivalent to what one would expect from a house league peewee team–pathetic. It’s a system of basic errors and turnovers, not a streamlined display that you would expect from professional hockey players. Their forecheck was equally as bad. While the Capitals were victorious against Edmonton, I felt a sense of anger leaving the rink because they escaped with a win that they wholeheartedly did not deserve. They had three shots on net during the first period. That is not acceptable. The game could have easily gone quite different had the Caps not had a decent power play in the middle of the second period. I felt bad for Edmonton for being unable to catch a break and capitalize for the win.
Additionally, I felt bad for Alexander Ovechkin. Clearly, he’s a talented hockey player, but he’s being left to rot on the Capitals lineup. Not to discredit Niklas Backstrom or Eric Fehr (who are both certainly quite talented) it’s essentially the Ovechkin show on the Verizon Center ice surface. There is no Malkin acting as a supporting cast. This is an error on the GM’s part–Stanley Cups are not won by one star player alone. The NHL playoffs are far too long for one player to carry on his shoulders. There needs to be a complement to Ovechkin’s talent, or this team is going nowhere.
Goaltending is another huge question mark for the Capitals. While not every goal is on the direct fault of the goaltender, several goals during the two games I’ve witnessed had me scratching my head as to how the heck they went in. This isn’t good. While Holtby is certainly competent and had a few spectacular saves against Edmonton, he doesn’t scream “starting goaltender” to me. This is an issue. A lack of marquee players (minus Ovechkin, obviously) does not bode well for a spectacular season. It will be interesting to see how Washington deals with this as the season progresses, and hopefully changes are made to ensure some wins in Washington. The season depends on it.