Ill Omens as Thrashers beat Caps 4-2 in Season Opener


Just one of those nights. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Just one of those nights. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Important stuff first: Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsed during a stoppage of play early in the first period. Medical staff rushed to the ice, as Pavelec remained motionless for ten minutes.  He was then taken to the hospital where he later regained consciousness. Panic, dread, and confusion filled Phillips Arena during the extended delay, but the stalwart audio crew in Atlanta made sure to drown it out with crass jock rock in the interim. We wish all the best to Pavelec.

The Caps opened this season much like they closed the last one: messily.  Through sixty minutes of scrambling, bad turnovers, and awkward attacks, the Capitals stumbled through tonight’s game with the Thrashers like a baby elephant learning to walk.  The Caps put 31 shots against Chris Mason and another 28 into various Thrasher players willing to block them.  While only Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble were each able to defeat the Atlanta defense once, the opponents found ways to score at every turn. Thanks to a penalty-shot goal from Johnny Oduya, a laser from Andrew Ladd, and a twofer from Evander Kane, the Atlanta Thrashers felled the Caps in the opening bout. Thrashers beat Caps 4-2.

The first bullets of ’10-’11 comin’ at ya.

  • It’s been months since our last recap, and much has changed. But our anticipation has been mounting for weeks. Ondrej Pavelec‘s accident on the ice really swept the rug out from under us all. If anyone looked distracted tonight, it’s certainly understandable.
  • Even though four tallies were marked against him, Michal Neuvirth looked pretty solid tonight. As is Caps tradition, the goalie was fed to the wolves tonight and suffered some unlucky breaks that he did not deserve. No blame.
  • The Thrashers blocked 23 shots. The Thrashers blocked 23 shots. The Thrashers blocked 23 shots. Five of them were Ovi’s. I don’t even want to type the word, but I have to: Habs.
  • Johnny Oduya’s penalty shot came from a dubious call. Mike Green allegedly covered the puck with in the paint before scooting it out. We couldn’t see the play with our own eyes, but if Craig Laughlin says it’s bullpuckey– darnit– it is.
  • Marcus Johansson went 1 for 8 on the faceoff. I know he’s unfamiliar with NHL faceoffs, but this is just unacceptable. He does look nice skating around though…
  • The power play seemed to give up shorthanded opportunities more often than it produced shots on goal. Something is profoundly wrong.
  • Hey, at least Mike Knuble got a goal. He’s now on track to score 82 this season. Career-best year coming up- mark my words.

So that was an utter disappointment. The Caps lacked any semblance of composure on defense. They showed precious little deliberation on offense. No set plays, no explosive attacks on the net, no lightning-fast passes. Who were these guys?

The most infectious and exhilarating thing about the Capitals is supposed to be their unquenchable desire to win. Every single  game.  That team didn’t show up tonight. Maybe it was the scare in the opening minutes, maybe it was the same malaise that haunted the team during the pre-season loss to Predators.

The boys will fly home tonight, get a good night’s sleep, and put on their red uni’s tomorrow. They’ll wake up.

Readers, I wish we could have opened this up for you with fireworks and pomp, but that wasn’t what the night brought us. As a consolation, we offer you these two voicemails delivered by the voice of the Capitals himself, Wes Johnson:

  • Just glad that Pavelec seems like he will be ok. Puts the Caps PP wows in perspective.

  • Just the first game. Caps’ll be back to their butt-kicking selves tomorrow at home. Go Caps!

  • Tim

    That moment with Pavelec collapsing was freaky. I hope he’s ok, because I thought for a minute he was dead. Last I heard, he was conscious and asking how the game went (according to the Thrashers’ beat writer), so that’s a very good sign.

    As for the blocked shots, it’s not like the Habs were the first to do that – or that the playoffs were the first time they did so. Teams like Montreal and New Jersey were the hardest for Washington to beat during the regular season, largely because they played that style of defense. What this shows is that the Caps need to learn to adapt to that defense at some point. I would rather see this now than in the playoffs.

    The Caps might need a few games to get everything together, and tonight had a start that would throw anyone off their game. They’ll pull back together, and I can’t wait until tomorrow to go to my first Caps game since Game 7, and to see them beat the Devils!

  • deann

    Great article. Thought Neuvy made several huge saves and played well overall. People will do their usual “We need Varly” as though he is an ominipotent goalie and ignore that for the entire game, the Caps defense laid an egg and he had 3 forwards parked at the doorstop consistently.

    I would also argue that the Caps can’t blame their being out of sorts on Pavelec’s scary collapse. Atlanta was all over them in the first 2 minutes and they looked flat before Pavelec’s collapse.

    Not to mention, when the game resumed, Laich got a goal and that theortectically should have given the Caps momentum. So they regrouped enough to get a good goal and then tanked the rest of the game.

    My guess is just like with last season, they decided they had a lead and didn’t have to protect it. I think they assumed 4 more were going to go in on Mason.

    My question is: who on this coaching staff is responsible for coaching defense? And not just defense for our two defenders. Do the other forwards know that they can check, go to the boards, help support our defense?

  • madcap

    @tim, you are right,adaptation is needed!! VERY disappointing first showing….can only hope they look better at home tonight!

  • I had to read the first paragraph 3 times before I realized you probably meant medical “staff” instead of “stuff.” Hey it is late. I missed the game tonight because I was working and also trying to watch the Stars/Devils and Red Wings/Ducks. Saw the goalie being carted off on highlights though…scary stuff!!

  • Can someone explain what is so different between NHL and SEL puck drops/faceoffs?


  • capsgirl1

    Thank God it seems that Pavelec is going to be okay. Seeing him lying motionless on the ice like that was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. I’m wondering what caused it.
    Caps will be fine. Home ice will cure the uninspired play that we witnessed for a good part of last nights game. Not sure how that could have happened on opening night. Maybe they couldn’t shake the whole Pavelec incident. I know I wouldn’t have been able to.
    Can’t wait to rock the red tonight!

  • J.P.

    Whether or not the call on Green was suspect, the fact remains that he (and the rest of the D) allowed the referees the chance to make a bad call by playing so poorly. The D is entirely too passive, allowing opposing players space to operate and giving them lanes to shoot into. Green and company need to stop bring bringing the Stupid and need to start bringing the Intensity. It was embarrassing to watch the anemic Thrashers outplay and out-hustle the Caps all night. Every team in the league watched last year as the Habs drew up a template on how to take down the Caps; clog up the zone, play tight D, and block shots. Teams know they can counter the the Caps’ skillset with hustle, and since the Caps themselves seem allergic to hustle, you can bet we’ll see this strategy employed early and often. BB needs to light a fire under these guys and soon. They totally hosed Neuvirth’s solid play in net, because there was no sense of urgency anywhere on the ice…..

  • Patrick Foster

    Evander Kane took the penalty shot. I enjoy reading your guys blog every day. Keep up the good work.

  • Ian

    I would fix that mistake Patrick, but it’s a pretty funny one to me. Just like the Caps, we had some opening game blunders of our own. haha. We’ll try harder tonight. I promise.

  • BobbyG

    First of all, best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Pavelec. Does anyone know more details about what happened, and the prognosis for his recovery?

    Second, yes it was a disappointing game. Ovie in particular looked tired, wasted, uninspired, and dare I say it–BORED. I won’t speculate as to why he looked so unlike himself, but hopefully the home opener tonight at red rockin’ Verizon Center will get his juices going even if he’s not 100% physically. I only hope the raising of the Presidents’ Trophy banner won’t bring back painful memories of the Caps’ early playoff exit and bum everyone out, players and fans alike.

  • Peter Hassett

    Thanks, Bobby. Just to back up Ovie, he did have 13 attempted shots– 8 of which were blocked. That effort usually ends up in a multiple-goal night for him.