Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Zero expectations and first impressions

Let's start by saying I have zero expectations of the Washington Capitals this season for many reasons.  The Olympics helped to ruin the Caps season in 2010 with the Russian team's disastrous 6th place finish and the hangover Alex Ovechkin had as a result of that performance. It's hard to know what impact that will have this season , given that the spotlight on Ovie is even brighter, with him being a torch bearer and a member of the host country with big expectations for their hockey team.  (Side note:   I support the players playing in the Olympics even with the risk of injuries.)

Besides the Olympic distraction, I'm not convinced that this Caps team, like so many others in recent years, is tough enough to survive the slog through the playoffs.  There is a reason the Cup is known as the hardest trophy to win in sports.

The most important reason I have zero expectations is because the Caps record in the post-season is abysmal since the Ovie/young gun era began.  But, for whatever masochistic reason, I'm still a Caps fan and I'll continue to root for them.

This is the first full season, with training camp, for new head coach and hall of fame center, Adam Oates.  Oates cemented his relationship with his star player during a preseason trip to Moscow.  The expression, 'in Adam Oates we trust' is making the rounds of fan boards for good reason.  I'm a believer. The RPI graduate is clearly a studier of the game in a way few coaches are.  Geometry matters to him, stick curvature matters to him, individual coaching sessions matter to him.  These things are starting to show on the ice.

I remember reading about Oates saying he would start with the o-zone, then the neutral zone, then the d-zone to implement his system.  The offensive players showed flashes of brilliance, individually and as lines,  in the 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.  There were far fewer perimeter shots than there used to be. The only negative for the offense was being out shot 18-6 in the 2nd period.  Ouch.

The #1 power play from last season continued its dominance and went 3 for 4.  The new center, Mikhail Grabovski, scored two of those and another goal for a hat trick.  He also had an assist.  Grabovski certainly looked impressive. 

The defense and goal tending were another story.  Connor Carrick needs to play hockey in Hershey.    The Caps have work to do on defense.

Braden Holtby
played terribly in the first period.  He seemed distracted and off kilter after Jonathan Toews jostled him as he went behind him in the net on his way to setting up Patrick Kane for a goal in the first period.  He settled down and played better the rest of the way, but I'm not feeling all that confident with the Caps goal tending or its defense.

It's nice to have hockey back.

Let's go Caps!

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