Capitals caught playing catch up in first game of the season

Do yourself a favor and just mute this video to spare yourself from the ESPN commentating…”Martin Saint Louie”…really?

Believe it or not, the NHL made its return today. The Washington Capitals started the season off on the road against its division rival Tampa Bay Lightning, hoping to spoil the season opener in the sunshine state.

The Lightning took an early lead just over six minutes into the game after Eric Brewer lit the lamp for the home team. The Caps would respond with a goal from Joel Ward on a delayed penalty, but Tampa Bay was able to respond with a goal of their own courtesy of Vinny Lecavalier just under a minute later. The Caps continued to play goal-for-goal catchup through the first two periods, never letting the Lightning gain more than a one goal lead, but also never gaining any sort of lead over the Lightning at any point. The Caps second and third goals came from Ward and Wojtek Wolski, respectively. After two periods the score was an even 3-3.

Following the same pattern of the first two periods, the Lightning took the lead yet again just under five minutes into the third period off of a goal from St. Louis. Though, unlike the pattern of the first two periods, the Caps would not match the Lightning’s fourth goal. Martin St. Louis, Cory Conacher, and Eric Brewer would get the final three goals for the Lightning, making the final score a 6-3 victory in favor of the home team.

As a spectator, it was clear that the Capitals were constantly trailing tonight. Trailing on the scoreboard and trailing as a team all together compared to the Lightning. The Caps had to play catchup in goals scored, but they also had to play catchup in preparation for the season. Unlike the Bolts, the Caps are playing an entirely new system under an entire new coach after having less than a week of preparation and no preseason games. This was evident on the powerplay, the penalty kill, offense, defense, and well just about everything. They were as ready as they could be, but that still wasn’t very ready.

Positives of the night:

  • Ok so we didn’t see Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, or even Ribeiro or Carlson light the lamp tonight, but we did see goals scored by Ward and Wolski, two guys who are slightly less expected to score goals. We all know that Ward and Wolski can score, but we all also know that they haven’t really lived up to what is expected of them lately. Long story short, it sure is great to see these two guys in the goal column.
  • It was great to so Wolski driving to the net and picking up rebounds to score goals. This is the kind of hardwork that Caps fans rarely saw Semin do because he was either too busy shooting a slapshot high and wide to the right, trying to stickhandle through the entire opposing team, not passing, or taking an ill advised penalty. Ah yes, but back to Wolski, scoring a goal in the first game of the season has to feel good for Wolski. After underperforming in recent seasons due to injury, it has to boost his confidence that he was able to start the season off exactly as he had hoped, in the goal column.
  • Either Joel Ward is just really pumped up about the Ravens playoff run or he was just very underutilized last season. I’m going to go with both. Wow did he look solid. Honestly, I felt like he was one of the best, if not the best on the ice for the Caps tonight. With two goals and five shots, a team high for the night, Wardo has to be feeling confident about his performance tonight.
  • Ribz is a boss. No, literally. I was mesmerized while watching Mike Ribeiro calling out orders while down on the 5-on-3 PK. Sure, most players do this, but there was something about Ribeiro this time that seemed special to me. He just seems like such a smart player and it was definitely evident tonight at times. As the season goes on and the Caps become more comfortable with the new systems, Caps fans will have a lot to look forward to with Ribeiro.
  • People often give me a hard time for sticking up for Mike Green, but it’s hard to disagree with the critics after he has had so much trouble with injuries lately. However, tonight Greenie looked like all of that was behind him. Green looks healthy and confident. Further, he looked fairly aggressive tonight and seemed ready to jump in on the offensive play in a vintage Green kind of way, something Caps fans haven’t seen too much in recent seasons. Finally, he did what he does best, leading the Caps in minutes tonight with a total of 26:57. Mmmmm, I like it.
  • The Caps powerplay only went 1-for-4, but still looked promising. The comfort level seemed very low on the PP tonight for the Caps, but that’s exactly how it will look after they only had less than a week and no preseason games to prepare. The good stuff will come. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Negatives of the night:

  • Ovechkin appeared to be a bit caught up in the start of the season jitters tonight. His switch to RW instead of LW in addition to playing Oates’s new systems left Ovechkin a bit less Ovechkin-like. Again, this is a direct result from the very shortened preseason. But with more practice, there should be no doubt that Ovechkin becomes more comfortable and returns to the Ovechkin that we all know and love.
  • It’s a real bummer to see Hillen get badly injured in the first game of the season. Not much else to say here except best of luck on a speedy recovery.
  • Holtby’s glove side high is questionable. He is clearly not used to NHL high-powered shots. In return, it’s obvious that he’s been playing in the AHL where the speed of the game is a bit slower. But as is the case with Ovechkin, if Holtby is as good as we all hope he is, than he just needs a bit more time to adjust and he’ll be the Holtby we remember from the playoffs last season. Also worth nothing that the pipe saved Holtby a lot in this game. Yay?
  • Umm…did the Caps top line have a single scoring chance in this game? Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention, but it seemed like they were pretty invisible for a good part of the game tonight.
  • As Al Koken stated in the postgame tonight, the Caps appeared to be “thinking more than reacting,” arguably the main reason for the loss tonight. But again, this is what happens with such a short preseason and no preseason games under a new coach and new systems. Just expect it to be this way for the next game or two. It sucks, but would you rather watch this or go back to the lockout?

Closing thoughts:

What can you really expect after going into game one of the season without playing any preseason games under a new coach with new systems after being off since May? Tonight’s game was a feeler game. Yeah it was ugly at times, but the Capitals also looked promising at times. I don’t expect any game in the NHL for the first week or so to be a typical NHL game. Expect the unexpected. Anything is going to happen. But hey, it’s better than the lockout, right? Onto the next one!

And with that, I leave you with this:

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Posted on January 20, 2013, in Nosebleeder's Breakdown and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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