Monday, October 19, 2015

Oshie equals effort

Throwing his body around and finishing his checks while being the only guy on the team under 6’ , T.J. Oshie gives notice to his opponents that he will make them pay for any transgression with an offensive or defensive play. Oshie oozes effort on every single shift he plays. That means he is worth more to the Caps than just his offensive output. Oshie brings the leadership and hustle intangibles that the Caps were lacking in the pre-Barry Trotz era.

Through four games, Oshie is 2-2-4 and minus-2, but the points came evenly distributed in the last two games and his plus-minus improved to plus-1 and 0. He is finding chemistry with his new line mates, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, for now. Oshie showed chemistry with Nicklas Backstrom (welcome back 3-point night Nicky!) on the power play against the Carolina Hurricanes. His shot from Backstrom on that play showcased a beautiful one-timer.

Oshie seems to make things happen on the ice. Creative offense versus dump and chase offense is being played by the Caps and he is a part of that. The top 6 forward situation, with the addition of Justin Williams and a healthy Backstrom looks improved. Their passing is fun to watch again.

But, the West Coast road trip will be a big test. The Caps struggle, more seasons than not in the Ovie era, with a 3-4 record the last two seasons, when they play Western conference teams on the road. Of course, the Caps were home for that debacle of a game they played against the San Jose Sharks. Maybe the addition of two Western conference players, Oshie and Justin Williams, will help the Caps on the road out West.

Oshie is excited about the Caps and “what we can do if we play the right way” as quoted in this Washington Post article. Those words make Caps fans happy. This is another example of those key intangibles. There can never be enough of that on a team that would like to be competitive in the playoffs, if they get there.

Puck drops in Calgary tomorrow night. Let’s go Caps!

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Monday, October 12, 2015

An Ovie classic to start the season

It never gets tiring watching Alex Ovechkin undress a defenseman, in this case New Jersey’s John Moore, and completely confuse a goalie, Keith Kincaid, by pulling the puck back to his forehand and going to the top corner of the net. It was the game winner and started the Caps rally in the third period. They outlasted a tired New Jersey team and ended up with a 5-3 victory. The Caps started the game playing sloppy hockey as if they forgot how to play during their five day break, but they got the two points.

The Caps changed again this summer, thanks to General Manager Brian MacLellan, after he assessed another gut wrenching loss in the playoffs, after, once again, being up 3-1 in the series against the New York Rangers. The top 6 forwards needed an upgrade and trades for T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams netted that at the cost of losing Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward. It seems like a good deal right now, but getting to the playoffs and further than the first round is when Caps fans will be able to tell.

In the game against the Devils, T.J. Oshie made his presence known on the ice. Even with a 0 point, minus-1 performance, Oshie’s hustle and compete level shined as he finished his checks, doled out hits and took pucks. As noted in the Washington Post, Oshie feels he had unfinished business in St. Louis so let’s hope Washington is the place where he makes up for that.

Justin Williams, the veteran winger, known as Mr. Game 7 much to his chagrin, is a Stanley Cup winning leader for the Caps locker room. He started his Caps career with two assists on special teams, one on Jason Chimera’s short-handed goal in the 1st period and the other on the power play empty netter put in by Matt Niskanen.

Some intriguing Caps story lines for this season…

  • Will Evgeny Kuznetzov continue to grow as a player and a leader? Early results, starting in the preseason, are encouraging?
  • Will T.J. Oshie find chemistry playing on the opposite side of Ovie?
  • Will Nicklas Backstrom successfully recover from offseason hip surgery and return to form?
  • Will the confidence Tom Wilson displayed versus New Jersey and in the preseason turn into more scoring and better hockey playing from the gritty winger?
  • Will Andre Burakovsky break out this season?
  • Will Braden Holtby keep up his strong play in net?
  • Will the Caps make it to the playoffs and escape their post season history?
  • And last, but not least, will the Caps escape the dreaded jinx of Washington sports teams named to be the champion or finalist by many prognosticators at the beginning of a 162-game, oops 82-game, season? Enough already, this team has a dreadful post season history, and after watching the Nationals implode, crowning the Caps champion of anything is the last thing any Washington sports fan wants to hear.

More on all of these and other story lines as the season progresses.

Now, onto Caps versus Sharks.

Let’s go Caps!

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