The Early Oates Era
It's been tough to watch the Caps play hockey this year, but they finally pulled together a complete game against the Florida Panthers. Florida is not a good team, although the Caps are worse, as evidenced by their last place standing in the league.
The Caps struggles with understanding and implementing Oates system have been easy to see. This is not a high hockey IQ team. More worrisome, however, have been the lackluster efforts of way too many players in way too many games. Let's hope they turned a corner on that. But, it's only one game. I've felt sorry for Oates, at times, because of the lack of hustle by his team.
After a players only meeting, where apparently their captain Alex Ovechkin spoke up, the Caps put together their best game of the season. From his apparent disgust after the drubbing by Pittsburgh and this meeting, it seems that maybe, just maybe, Ovie has decided to lead off the ice. He's leading on the ice, with much more focused efforts the past several games, and 2G and 3A in his last four games. We'll see if it continues.
The list of problems plaguing the Caps seems endless:
- In net - they have two young goalies with inconsistency and intermittent confidence problems. Braden Holtby hasn't looked like a NHL goalie and Michal Neurvirth still fights the puck some nights. The soft goals they let in deflates the team when the team needs their net minders to steal games for them while they learn Oates system.
- On the blue line - John Carlson and Karl Alzner do not look like the Carlzner dynamic duo of the past year. Carlson looks horrible. Alzner looks okay. Mike Green looks the best and John Erskine provides the only snarl on the defense. This team is soft.
- On offense - Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps best player when healthy, has been invisible for more games than he's made his presence known. Marcus Johansson sitting in the press box is much better than Marcus Johansson playing. When Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer are the team's top goal scorers, it doesn't bode well for climbing back up in the standings.
I don't really have high hopes for this lockout shortened season, but it'll still be fascinating to watch.
Let's go Caps!