Photo: Alex Brandon
Still kicking off what everyone expects to be a big season, the Washington Capitals haven’t worked out the kinks yet. At Thursday’s home opener against the Calgary Flames, the Caps defense seemed to have difficulty playing defense or perhaps grasping even the abstract concept of defense.
David Jones roofed it to Braden Holtby’s near side to open up scoring early in the first. Following a momentum-nothinging fight by Tom Wilson, Lee Stempniak made it 2-0. Not longer after that came a power play tally by Jiri Hudler, who had loads of free ice as Jason Chimera went a-rambling on the penalty-kill prairie.
The Caps regained life in the second period as Connor Carrick scored his first NHL goal (at the ripe age of 19), a snazzy slow-mo breakaway upon exiting the penalty box. Spirits were leavened momentarily, but Lance Bouma converted when Michal Neuvirth abdicated the net to make it 4-1 near the halfway mark. The Capitals converted a second-period high-sticking call as — wait for it– Alex Ovechkin scored from his favorite spot. That’s Ovi for ya. Unhappy with just one, Ovechkin took a puck off the faceoff to the top shelf to get the Capitals within one after two periods.
A penalty-filled third period yielded nothing until Nick Backstrom, the silent suede Swede, tied the game with a scrambly power-play goal. Into overtime we went and beyond.
- Grabo scored on a backhand rooftop.
- Sven Baertschi denied on a five-hole attempt by Neuvy.
- Alex Ovechkin got the DC Hat Trick!
- Neuvy stopped someone not sure who who cares
Caps beat Flames 5-4 (shootout)!
- Jack Hillen‘s hit looked nasty. Knee on knee, most likely. After losing most of last season to a shoulder thing, a big injury here would be heartbreaking. And a big injury it seems to be.
- Tom Wilson stepped up to the plate, challenging– nay, instigating!– Lance Bouma to fight right after the hit (which looked clean). Luckily, punches were thrown and honor was restored, and the Caps’ win was immediately guaranteed. Lee Stempniak scored 2 minutes and 3 seconds later.
- Connor Carrick was penalized for a rather soft hooking call that could have gone both ways. After Tuesday’s bad night in Chicago, a bad night in the home opener would be worrying. That’s not the way it shook out, thankfully, as Carrick scored his first career NHL goal upon exiting the penalty box. Marcus Johansson stretched the puck to Carrick, who didn’t have oodles of speed heading towards Karri Ramo’s net, but still managed to put in a fancy deke before backhanding the goal. After that, Carrick’s confidence seemed to blossom, as he attempted a bunch of shots in the following minutes and looked right at the camera during an intermission interview like a big boy.
- Craig Laughlin called Michal Neuvirth Varly. So what? I have called Jaroslav Halak Miroslav Halak like eighty times.
- Alex Ovechkin‘s power play goal was technically from a few feet farther back than usual, but it’s still the Ovi spot as far as I’m concerned. Houseruled. Ya know, I have a favorite spot too, but it’s on my couch and I don’t earn $9 million a year there. Aside from that, me and Ovi are twinsies. That’s two goals for the Great 8 tonight, the second of which was downright magisterial. The big guy broke double digits in shots, and he looks exactly the way you want your captain looking. Random though: Maria sure is great, isn’t she?
- Braden Holtby got chased from the net after 3 goals on 11 shots. Another less-than-sterling night by Holtby, but nothing to freak out about. If you recall, he started slow last season as well. In relief, Michal Neuvirth was not perfect either– particularly on that goofy misplay behind his net that gave Lance Bouma a lay-up.
- John Erskine put the puck over the glass during a pivotal penalty kill in the third. That’s two games in a row a Caps game involved a DOG leading to a five-on-three, and two games where that two-man advantage was fruitless.
- On the topic of penalties, the Capitals pretty much ran the circuit. If a player took off his skate and tried to stab someone with it, they might have completed the set.
- On the bright side, the penalty kill looked stronger on Thursday, killing 4 of 5. Then again, they probably didn’t need to practice the PK while down a goal.
- A parade of pointless penalties punctuated the final frame, but Backstrom broke the banality with a bomb off a broken play to placate the people at the… place. Close enough. The power play, by the way, en fuego.
- There is almost nothing to say about the fourth line yet. There’s Martin Erat, pulling down a cool $4.5M, grinding it out. It’s only game two, so I’ll just stifle.
- Check out Ovi’s sweet digs from the Olympic torch relay thing.
- DC Hat Trick. Never change, Verizon Center. Throw those hats. I love you.
It’s still so very early, but this is almost everything I want from the Caps. I want offense, offense, and– why the heck not– let’s have some offense on the side to really fill out the mise en place of the thing. The Capitals have a roster built to score, but for two years they didn’t have the system to allow them to do it (starting when Boudreau got neutered through Hunter Hockey and up until Oates got his stuff figured out last spring). Now, it seems like everything on the far side of the ice looks splendid– at least among the top lines.
@russianmachine this feels like 3 years ago when you feel they can always come back and score
— Lance (@CapitalKing19) October 4, 2013
Exactly! That’s the kind of Caps hockey that got me writing stupider and boldly stupider recaps in the first place.
Now let’s see the Capitals figure out the defense situation– both in staff and strategy– and this team will become something to love or fear– depending on your — oh who am I kidding, if you’re reading this you’re one of us.
Crash the net.