Photo credit: Scott Audette
Welcome back, everybody! After 250+ days, we’ve finally got new Capitals hockey to watch and kinda enjoy. I say kinda because these Capitals, whom those not dissuaded by cliché might call the new-look Caps, didn’t have their act together on Saturday. Opening the season in Tampa, the Capitals had troubles with even-strength offense and all kinds of special-teams stuff.
Eric Brewer scored the first anti-Caps goal of the year with an outside shot that caught Holtby screened by his own defenders. Joel Ward tied it up with a first-period powerplay goal assisted by Tom “Iron Groin” Poti. That tie was shortlived, as Vincent Lecavalier exploited a defensive breakdown by Holtby & co. to score an easy one.
Joel Ward recorded a second goal to tie the game early in the second period, but Martin St. Louis restored the Tampa lead with a powerplay sweep-in a few minutes later. Wojtek Wolski ingratiated himself to Caps fans with a crucial four-on-four goal late in the second, knocking a rebound past Anders Lindbäck.
Martin St. Louis got his second of the night, a heartbreaking shot from outside during a third-period 5 on 3. Cory Conacher scored the first goal of his career, also the night’s proverbial dagger, on a 3-on-1 breakaway. Ryan Malone scored on the powerplay to make it painfully obvious that the Caps were gonna lose.
Bolts beat Caps 6-3.
- The good news: Tom Poti, just now returned from extended injury, recorded an assist in his first game back in the bigs. Poti had limited service since Oates dressed seven defenders, but I’d say it was a successful outing for the guy, who last played NHL hockey against Tampa two seasons ago (Poti had the team’s best plus-minus that postseason, btw).
- The bad news: special teams, in general. The Caps had plenty of opportunities with a man-advantage, but converted on just one. On the other hand, they allowed Tampa to score three powerplay goals.
- After much discussion, Alex Ovechkin actually served on the penalty kill. I think this is a wretched idea. We need Ovechkin optimized, not comprimised. I agree he needs more ice time, but I want that ice time spent in the offensive zone. Ovi needs to take more faceoffs in the offensive zone during even-strength and see fewer circumstances that ask him to block shots with his goal-scoring bones.
- We now have anecdotal evidence that Joel Ward was not used effectively last season. In a modest amount of ice time, Ward record two goals, one-third of his 2011-2012 total. If Saturday was disappointing overall, Ward’s performance should give us some degree of hope.
- New guy Jack Hillen took a bad hit behind the net from Tampa creep Vincent Lecavalier. The hit reminded me of the Brian Campbell-Alex Ovechkin hit a few years ago that led to one fractured clavicle and one suspension. Here’s hoping Hillen fares better than Campbell.
- Braden Holtby fell to earth as we knew he would eventually. Holtby surrendered a goal on the first shot of the night and stopped just 9 of 12 at even strength. He needs to be better, but that’s true of the whole team. Delay panic.
- Alex Ovechkin got busted for embellishment in the second period, and I think it was the right call. Ovi has a bad habit of appealing to the refs with a bit too much melodrama. It’s one small piece of his game I’d rather see gone.
- On the other hand, the hard-hitting side of Alex Ovechkin will always be appreciated.
- Wojtek Wolksi made his presence known in his first game in a Capitals sweater. Wolski’s goal changed the complexion of the game, and his intermission interview introduced us to a thoughtful, articulate player. I really think some big top-six minutes will pay dividends.
- Martin St. Louis : Washington :: Knuble : Pittsburgh.
Game one of an abbreviated 48-game campaign is in the books. The lesson, in short: The Caps still have a lot of work to do. At even-strength, on the power play, while a man down, the Caps are not yet at the performance level we need them at. And considering this season is more of a sprint than a marathon, there is no shortage of motivation for them to get their acts together.
Adam Oates is a smart guy, and this is a talented hockey team. I think they’ll get it done. What do you think?
On a personal note, thanks for coming back to RMNB for another season of hockey jokes and more hockey jokes. I fully intend to write about games that are won, and those might be kinda funny. So stick with us. We’re in it together now.