The level-headed, long view, one game at a time rational approach to following the 82 game Washington Capitals regular season schedule is half way to the street after exiting via the window. Alex Ovechkin shows up on America soil in what is reported as the best shape ever, pot belly rumors be dammed. Nicklas Backstrom spent the off-season training with a world-class speed skater in his native Sweden. Caps GM George McPhee picked up veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun in a deal that can only be had during the last hour the neighbor’s yard Sale and there’s been a steady stream of early arrivals to a training camp being touted like it should be on hosted on Parris Island …why shouldn’t I be excited?
I know, I know, last week’s measured expectations based on past playoff performance. Another year with stunned silence at the last game of the playoffs serving as the tip-off to start planning beach time, I know…
This happens to me after nearly every Labor Day and this year is no different. The nay saying is pushed aside; the countdown to game 1 is in full anticipation mode that this could be the next year we’ve been waiting for.
I’ve experienced more pre-season hype, regular season glory, and post season disappointment with the Washington Capitals than I care to share. After being outclassed by Tampa Bay in the second round of last spring’s playoffs I just moved on. Talk of super talented young guns and a solid core group of players was for someone else’s conversation. Don’t take this the wrong way because I’ll still be in my seat cheering them on this year, it’s just that my expectations and hopes for the Caps took another in a series of season ending beatings.
My hiatus was interrupted when I lifted an eyebrow towards the Caps in early July when free agent players hit the open market. GM George McPhee made a number of solid acquisitions combined with re-signing existing talent that few would argue make the Caps a better, more mature hockey team.
These offseason personal moves combined with veteran players showing up early for training camp talking about heightened commitments to conditioning and team attitude is encouraging, but not overly so. This year I need more than just preseason talk; I need to see how this talk translates on the ice.
I usually greet the early fall and impending hockey season with enthusiasm for what’s to come, but for this year’s Caps it’s more measured optimism.
Related Story from the WP Capitals Insider:
Alex Ovechkin returns to Washington
Rather sedate crowd on the patio this afternoon, it’s a sunny 71 degrees and these people just don’t look like hockey fans, they have no idea what their missing.
The Capitals won last night 4-3 in overtime against Atlanta. Other than recording a win, the big news was Alexander Semin leading the offensive attack with a hat trick, (that’s 3 goals for those new to the game) and the outstanding effort of center Mathieu Perreault playing alongside him. Perreault was called up from the Caps farm team, the Hershey Bears, yesterday and assisted on 2 of Semins’ goals. The Caps need an offensive spark and if Perreault’s play is consistent over the next couple of games he may be playing in the big league for the foreseeable future. He had the same opportunity last season but wasn’t quite ready for the NHL grind and was sent back down to the Bears, the next couple of games will be very telling.
The Yankees are playing golf, the Redskins play at 1, and the Patriots at 4:15. Normally I wouldn’t mention the Redskins but their fortunes affect so many of the locals around here that it’s best if they win. All is well with the sporting world…for now.
Bruins beat the Capitals 4-1, Caps go 0-4 on the power play. The Caps played 30 minutes of a 60 minute game while the Bs showed up for the whole shooting match – enough said.
First, lets deal with formalities; starting the 2010-11 82 game regular season 4-2 is great stuff. The Washington Capitals are an elite NHL franchise and as long as they stay relatively healthy they will stay on nearly every credible list of Stanley Cup contenders.
Now, about last night…
Last night the Boston Bruins beat the Caps 3-1 on home ice. The view from my seat showed that the Caps had more talent, more scoring chances, and more game than the Bruins yet they lost 3-1, hmmm….
They played tough for nearly 60 minutes yet from time to time during last night’s contest those Bears just seemed to have broader shoulders. Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara’s 6’ 9” 255 pound frame had valiant Caps bouncing off and falling to the ice on a regular basis. They’re clearly not going to beat this potential playoff opponent like this.
In order to win they need to take advantage of power play opportunities. Last year they had one of the most feared power plays in the league with many of the goals scored with a man advantage having significant impact on the outcome of games. The Caps went 0-5 last night including a brief 2 man advantage in the second period. A power play goal could have provided the momentum the Caps needed to win this game and they need to change this.
Let’s hope redemption comes on Thursday night when the Caps take on the Bruins up in Boston.
In late July I posted a dump and run purge of last season’s first round, one and done playoff disaster, the Capitals need to win, and concluded the road to redemption for this team starts with a collective chip on their shoulders and ends with hoisting the cup.
Yesterday’s WP Caps Insider provided evidence of the emerging chip from veteran RW Mike Knuble after yesterday’s morning skate at the Caps practice facility. The journey begins:
“I expect, right from Day One, we’re going to be judged on our playoffs,” Knuble said. “We know how we’re all going to be measured is the playoffs, not the regular season.
“We’re going to play well during the season, we’re going to have a good record; there’s no denying or changing that, but what happened makes everybody take a step back and makes everybody a little more angry than hungry,” Knuble added. “I think everybody’s a little pissed off this year and can’t wait to get to spring. It’s going to be a long 7-8 months to get to the playoffs for us.”