Bill Smith

Alex Ovechkin scores his first goal of the season. (Photo Bill Smith)

Finally!

141 days after they got the boot by the Rangers, the Washington Capitals are back. You no longer have to talk to your friends, go out to dinner with your significant other, return calls from your family, or bathe with any regularity. From this moment until May at the earliest, your ass belongs to us.

I might have taken that too far. I’m sorry. I’m a bit excited over the return of net-crashing and the scoaring of goals (moar edition), imminent consummate Ovi-Grabo hookups, and all that stuff. I’m somewhat less psyched over everything that is happening in the Caps’ own zone and those teenage mutant ninja Caps, but whatever. It’s very early, and this was a game against a very tough opponent– one who has a real chance to repeat championships.

Here’s how it went down.

At the end of an Eric Fehr penalty, Jack Hillen’s weak clear allowed the puck to find Chicago’s Brandon Bollig in the crease. Bollig (6’2″, 223 lbs) easily out-muscled Connor Carrick (5’11″, 180 lbs) to score. Later, Alex Ovechkin took a pass from Mikhail Grabovski below the goal line to even it up on the power play, but Patrick Kane scored seconds later– right after Jonathan Teows gave Braden Holtby a bit of grease from behind.

In the second period, Mikhail Grabovski beat Corey Crawford on a two-on-one flanked by mobile decoy Jason Chimera. Brent Seabrook then re-established the Hawks’ lead with a goal off a rebound during a Connor Carrick hooking penalty.

Power play QB Mike Green set up Mikhail Grabovski for a tip-in to make it even at the top of the third period, thanks to Ovechkin’s defense-attracting skills. Green struck again on a subsequent power play–again setting up Mikhail Grabovski for a tip-in (that makes three). Brandon Saad exploited a turnover, executing a give-and-go to knot the score with 12 minutes left. Holtby let in some soft service on a shot from Johnny Oduya that probably was going wide. The Caps were unable to convert a late-game five-on-three, and Green tripped Marian Hossa on an empty-net breakaway, resulting in an automatic goal.

Hawks beat Caps 6-4. Welcome back, everybody.

  • Was Alex Ovechkin experiencing jet lag following his trip to Greece? Summary judgment: no. Ovi wiped out once– committing a slashing in the process, but that’s just Ovi. He’s a runaway freight train, and sometimes he’s gonna go off the rails. Ovi was dominant in the first half hour, generating 7 shots and adding 2 more before the full 60 was up.
  • How great was it to watch the Caps’ offense click! They generated piles of shots in the game’s first half, many of them directly off the stick of the Captain. Is this the return of Caps hockey in the style of 2008-2010? We won’t really know for a few weeks, but the first 30 minutes of this game were terrifically encouraging.
  • The years of 2008-2010 weren’t known for stout defense, and in the annals of history nor will this game. The Caps’ best defense seemed to be to have possession of the puck for all of the minutes, and somewhat less awesome when Chicago was doing the part of the game where they try to score. This may need further research.
  • To settle the debate from the summer, Mikhail Grabovski is officially jokes. Grabo scored a hat trick and added an assist in his first game as a Washington Capital. TOLD YOU SO. Grabo’s went Rambo-style on the Caps’ first goal. (Rambo-style. adj. To do a group activity alone, recklessly.) Huge game from the new guy.
  • Meanwhile, in Montreal, a fight between George Parros and Colton Orr resulted in Parros going to the hospital. The video is kind of ghastly. Expect the conversation on fighting in the NHL to dial up a few notches this week. For my money, I don’t need people punching each other in the brain to enjoy ice hockey. I’d love to hear your take though. Best wishes to George Parros.
  • The DOG is back. Mike Green put the puck over the glass late in the second period. I was really hoping  the delays-of-game were a 2013-2013 thing, but no. The DOG is not neutered. The DOG continues to bite. And the DOG travels in packs, apparently, as Chicago gave up a delay-of-game late in the third, setting up the Caps for a climactic 5 on 3.
  • Connor Carrick is like 15 years old. He’s winsome, absurdly talented, and in possession of a bright future. That said, Carrick was outmatched tonight– beaten in his own zone and committing a restraining penalty in his 10+ minutes on ice. Plus, Pierre McGuire totally butchered his name. Carrick’s sustained presence in the NHL is not guaranteed, but one game isn’t enough from which to draw a conclusion. We’ll see nine more at least.
  • There aren’t many Caps defenders I’m happy about. Thinking about the comparable defensive depth in the division, I’m growing wary; those teams have something this one lacks. Way I see it, the Caps have three options: a) improve their defense through roster or tactics; b) compensate by scoring firewagon goals like Bruce wanted; or c) lose hockey games.
  • Not Braden Holtby‘s night. That Oduya goal was some Wacky Races stuff, probably not needing any service from the goalie whatsoever. Instead, Holtby scored an own-goal, the game-winner for Chicago. Holtby had meh defense in front of him all night, which I’m sure we’ll all keep in mind in the comments.

This loss does not sting. It’s early, early days in the world of the 2013-14 Washington Capitals. We should be encouraged by the creativity and fervor of the Caps offense and sobered by their wobbly defense. 81 games to figure it out and make the playoffs. It can be done, and it’ll be lots of fun.

Don’t let this one get you down, guys. We’re just getting started.

  • 28ISGREAT

    START NEUVY!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    DAMMIT YOU

  • Frankenstein

    Grabovski good! Carrick baaaad!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    For the record, Fedor had Grabo’s hat trick before anyone.

  • dylan wheatley

    i thought the caps looked great whenever the caps i was watching were caps offensive players and not caps defensive players.

    holtby was half on/half off tonight which makes sense for early hockey.

  • Chip

    One of the most infuriating things to me is how Backstrom and Ribeiro seem very hesitant to shoot the puck. Grabovski seems the opposite and that makes me SO excited to see what this guy can do for us this season.

    Holtby was pretty good, but two of those goals (especially #5) were baaaad. He’ll get better as the season goes.

    As you guys said, seeing the offense click is so excited. Can’t wait to rock the red on Thurs at VC!!

  • OlietheGoalie

    My thoughts: Grabbie is a freak. Keep him around Ovie, Nick, and Green and that combo might be unstoppable force.

    Defense was bad. Holtby was Bad Holtby.

    So yeah, just like the ’09 Caps. I love the offense, but we have road cones out there in front of Beast. Gotta turn that ship around quick.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Start Varly! Jose! Vokoun!

  • Fedor

    Fehrsie, y u no score on open nets…

  • Cody Adkins

    Grabo is already worth more then $3mil in my books. Nicky needs to shoot more!

  • Graham Dumas

    Plus one on the no-more-fighting thing. Every time TW drops the gloves I feel ever-worse for him. It is no longer 1974. Move on.

  • JH

    Pretty much agree 100 percent with RMNB.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland
  • 28ISGREAT

    C’mon, its the truth. This was ours but for some unjustified over confidence in our goaltending. Otherwise, lots of great takeaways from tonight’s game. Incredible 3rd line. OV picking up right where he left off last season. Grabo could be the deal of the decade. Nicky & Greenie looking good. And MoJo only had one obviously bad shift costing us just one goal. And I can’t say I missed Perrault one bit.
    D needs some bolstering, but Big John’s hit on Toews wins them some breathing room.
    Glad to have hockey & RMNB back. Good write up Peter!

  • Ash

    Start Olie! (But no, I love the Holtbeast. First game. He’ll settle in.)

  • Andrew

    This loss does sting…a really bad loss…they should’ve gotten a point. The defense is horrible and caps will be the usual one-and-done in the playoffs with this brutal D.

  • Andy Wallace

    BRENT JOHNSON

  • cnucaptainshockey

    Defense killed us, as did those easily avoidable penalties committed on our side. Thursday will be better when our boys are back in town!

  • Andy Wallace

    #LetsGoCaps is trending… Let’s keep it that way

  • lilwolf30

    Yay for recaps being back! I missed these as much as I missed Caps hockey!! Woo!

    As for the game it gave me hope that our scoring will be better this year. They were hustling hard out there and that 2nd period time where they dominated the puck possession and just went on a shooting spree was nice. I’d like to see those convert into goals but that will come. Defense is weary..too many mistakes and let too many get to Holtby. If they can get this nailed down and balanced with the offensive slugfest it will be a very exciting season!

  • Freedoooom

    25.1 Awarded Goal – A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone on, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team (see 26.3 Infractions – When Goalkeeper is Off the Ice, below).

    Anyone notice the possession and control stipulation, not to mention the fact Green got the puck.

  • 28ISGREAT

    Who by comparison made both Alan May look like an old pro behind the desk tonight and Chuck Gromley sound eloquent. But tradition dictates we give our goalies as many free passes as needed until they get a win. So he gets to keep his new desk job a little longer.

  • yv

    This is typical Caps, nothing yet changed?! They will scare the hell out of all league with the PP and then couldn’t score on 5on3. But that shouldn’t mean anything if D and Holtby will do their duties, at-least, with the Caps lead. No luck there.

  • Pat Magee

    Carrick will be a monster in the NHL… I think he should be a monster in the AHL for a bit this season though. We would love to have him up here in hershey!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    YES. Really peeved me. I’ll need this explained.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    If we’re turning Grabovski into Grabo into Grabbie, he’s gonna be “Grr” by the end of the season.

  • sean

    Ever since the Ovie era started I have lamented the lack of grit on the back end. I thought Carlson was just having an off year because of the shortened season, but he played uninspired and looked lost tonight. Save Carricks games for call-ups and play Oleksy.

  • OlietheGoalie

    I’d rather see him as “G”, since he’ll be putting a lot of those onto his stats sheet this year.

  • Freedoooom

    It was just a stupid call.

    I don’t see how he could make the call, he got the puck which usually if the player has the puck its consider just fine, but he didn’t even have the puck. TSN has the referee that used to be a referee that usually talks about these things, but we all know TSN hates the Capitals and really hate Green.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Dude, it’s one game. Against the reigning champs. Who just lifted their Stanly Cup banner. They had A BIT of momentum.

    81 games to go.

  • James Overman

    Dont hate on the D. Yes they looked awkward/rusty to say the least for the first goal and the rest is history, but gotta say I’m still in love with Big Red John Erskine for his hit on Toews.

  • James Overman

    Well it makes up for the bad ‘Green grabs… holds… drops….’ the puck in the offensive zone i guess. Looked like an eternity on the replay when they showed it lol.

  • CDizz

    Crawford, y u rob Ferhsie on backdoor?!

  • Freedoooom

    It was his left glove which is on the top of the stick, I know when I played hockey, the left glove gets sticky because of the tape.

  • CDizz

    IT’S ALL OVER! NO HOPE! GOODBYE PLAYOFFS! OVI’S PUTTING ON WEIGHT AROUND THE MIDDLE AND BACKY IS OFF HIS GAME.

    Heh. We got this.

  • Ash

    Lots to improve, but lots to be really excited about too. And definitely not boring. Goddamn, but I’m looking forward to this season.

  • RESmith

    With the exception of the game winner by Oduya, I thought Holtby had a good game. The Caps’ D had a lot of breakdowns on the backcheck and gave Chicago a lot of odd man rushes into our zone, especially in the 2nd. Holtby bailed them out and had kept them in the game prior to the Oduya goal.

  • Matt Lauer

    I was giggling during the power plays. Man it looked good (and even during the 5-on-3, where we just barely missed scoring). If they click at half that pace, they’d set records.

  • Matt Lauer

    If it matters, Peter, from day one I was behind you all the way with the Grabovski > Ribeiro thing.

  • Chris

    Here’s my take on the fight between Parros and Orr. HE KNOCKED HIMSELF OUT BY FACE PLANTING ON THE ICE!! This wasn’t a situation where a guy got pummeled ( see what could have happened to Phil Kessel) or when players remove there helmets and one is taken down to the ice and hits the back of his head on the ice. George Parrots swung, missed and and KO’d himself with a helmet on. He should be embarrassed. Fighting has a place in hockey and always should because nobody can police the players better than themselves.

  • Owen Johnson

    Holtby made some pretty good stops, and I thought most of the goals were more bad defense/good shots.But the GWG reminded me a bit too much of this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxspfInbLV8

  • Matthew Kory

    Yay moar hockey!

  • Jeremiah

    send carrick back to juniors like any respnsible gm or coach would do is the first thing for the D. heck i would send wilson back ward outplayed him tonight and he should both carrick and wilson are 19 and defensemen and power forwards take time.. like time on ice they aren’t going to get here. when it come to how they compare to others in div rangers are the best d in div, pens are good but letang is injured and they have fluery; i would put the caps around the phi “who have issues” or cbj.. i have no idea about car though

    when it comes to fighting .. i have seen too many bad/ dirty hits in hockey to think there should be figthing in the game to have a system by the players to stop them rahter than a video by shannahan which doesn’t add to safety in the game . one guy gets knocked out so theguy who did it gets a video put on the website saying he is bad and he some arbitrary days off. i would say i don’t like players whose only job is to fight that is a waste of a roster spot and they add nothing to the game.

    fighting in hockey is like in baseball the pitcher throwing at a batter. in the nl the pitcher might get thrown at in the al another teammate might. when they started this year warnings after the first one it just led to things escalating and bechcclearings in baseball. to take fights out would prob mean more liberties taken with players or more crums ater whistles

  • brian!

    Loved the hit, but the obligatory NBC commentary about leading with the elbow/possible head contact put a bit of a damper on it.

  • jeremiah

    its the first game andy ou are making playoff predictions which aren’t till aprill . after one game

  • JenniferH

    While I would have liked for the Caps to win obviously, overall I was pleased with the game. I saw what I wanted to see which was our guys showing themselves up good. This is a team who could stand up good against the best of the league. Yeah, the Hawks won, but they had to fight for it, and fight hard, scrambling to win that game and it was only 2 points and not 1 by some arbitrary whatever at the end.

    I thought Ovi looked sensational. Grabbo and Greenie were fabulous. The Chimera/Ward line was great. Carrick was outplayed and his nerves showed, but he was fast and got to the puck just about every time and can only get better. Yes, Holtby gave up two soft goals, I won’t deny that, but he also made spectacular after spectacular save (especially with the D-men once again not there to help him out, come one guys!).

    And these guys had some puck possession and passing sequences that were absolute beauties, plus their power plays are still things of damn near works of art, while their penalty killing has improved vastly. Compared to the Caps at the start of last season, I am thrilled. This game really could have gone either way at the end there and against the current reigning Stanley Cup champs, that’s not a bad position to be in. So GO CAPS!

  • Fedor

    He hit post I thought

  • holtbysaidno

    … no

  • OlietheGoalie

    Exactly. My thought is if we can put up 4 goals against the reigning champs, that’s definitely a good starting point. We didn’t get blown out, nor did we even come close to it.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Agreed. Holt will be fine. He’s young, aggressive, but will learn. I don’t mind yelling out “STAY IN THE $(%$ DAMN BLUE PAINT!” every couple of games if he keeps us in the game.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Green has a glass groin, Laich is hurt yet again, Schultz sucks, trade Jose, get rid of BB, rip the C off Ovie, etc…

  • Rhino40

    hahahahahaha)))))) Best!

  • Rhino40

    Yes, was post hit…sadlkktjrweitj

  • Rhino40

    There’s nothing I enjoy more than a “bechcclearings” (sic.) brawl. But what on Earth are “crums ater whistles”?

  • Rhino40

    Oh, wait…

  • Rhino40

    Hey Peter….excellent recap as always. It occurs to me that the question posed by your sites header/banner does now have an answer: yep. #graboiz4realz.
    Respect,
    Das Rhino

  • Rhino40

    Sorry folks–posting fail…

  • Shmoo

    Yeah, during the replay the idiots were speculating about the great save from Crawford…during which you heard “PING!” from the post. Dead on to the post and back out.

  • Sarah

    American Hero Robert Green <3

  • Shmoo

    This is Holtby. At least at this point in his career. You’re gonna get some stinkers here and there. But look at his save percentage and carry on.
    Will be curious to see if Olie can help him develop that consistency, since he seems to operate on the same emotional wavelength, both good and bad.

  • pyklez

    That’s what I was thinking. Nicky kept dishing the puck during the power play back up top. How messed up would Chicago had been if Green made a slap pass to Nicky for a one-timer!!

  • Cody Adkins

    Oates needs to push him to shoot more! He has a sick wrist and slap shot!

  • Pat Magee

    Kane’s and Oduya’s goals were all holtby…. He shakes off the rust, we can beat anybody!