Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Capitals-Lightning Game Recap

I know this is about 12 hours later than everyone else's recap, but let's be honest, I'm not here for breaking news. If for some reason you are reading this, I presume it's because you are here by accident, a bored friend, or you legitimately find my views intriguing and my wit beguiling. Thanks to maddening FCC blackout rules (I currently live 90 miles from DC, 45 from Baltimore, 45 from Philly, and no local station airs NHL games of any sort, yet the nationally televised Versus feed was blacked out), I spent the first ten minutes of the game cursing Armstrong Cable and the government and missed the Canes' and Caps' first goals before I found a decent stream online. That said, here are my five thoughts on the other 55 minutes of the game:
  • I know we're only two games in, and Vokoun and Neuvirth have only had one game each, but the Capitals have now allowed 8 goals and gone to OT twice in two games. Vokoun looked pretty bad in the first two periods, allowing crappy goals from awful angles, but you have to accept that those goals are going to go in sometimes. Goalies have bad games, bad shots go in, and that's why good coaches like Boucher encourage their players not to abandon a play and to take shots like that. I'm not worried, except insofar as I'm worried that Boudreau will give more ice time to Neuvirth as a result. Vokoun is the better goalie, hands-down, and he needs to get the starts. The Avalanche and Varlamov allowed two goals on 38 shots in their season opener and recorded a shutout against the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins. (Very) early returns appear to favor Colorado on that trade. I really do not think that Washington is going to get the lottery picks so many assume were coming. I actually think there is a decent (read: 10% or so) chance that our boys in red may have a better draft spot with their own picks.
  • Despite struggles in net by both goalies (I refuse to join in giving praise to Neuvirth for what really was a pedestrian performance), I am glad to at least see that the offense has returned - even if not on the top line. Ovechkin and Backstrom really need to find ways to get open and get shots on net. They are obviously facing the toughest defensive competition every night, but that is because they are supposed to be one of the top-five tandems in the league. The skill is there, now it is time to get it done. If they can start scoring again, the league is again looking at the offensive juggernaut from two seasons ago, and goaltending struggles be damned.
  • Jason Chimera. That's pretty much the whole thought there. Years of stone hands and an inability to maximize on his gift of speed, and now he has three goals to start the year off. AND he is on the third line. I still think that the team's roster would best be served by having him on the fourth line, but kudos to him for bailing the team out this week. The third line has looked excellent, and he is a big big reason why. He looked awesome last night, and I hope he continues to prove me wrong about him.
  • Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson are two players that I think are being misused. Laich has been winning faceoffs and setting up plays on the third line, allowing Joel Ward and Jason Chimera to get offense going. Johansson did not seem quite up to the challenge of setting up Semin last night, and his offense came as a result of his speed and a big mistake by Roloson. I'd like to see MoJo and Laich switch spots for a couple games. Give Laich the opportunity to win the faceoffs and set up Semin and Brouwer, and give Johansson a chance to work his speed on the third line and hope that Chimera is not being fluky with his offense.
  • Mathieu Perreault was also misused last night. He is not a fourth-line guy, but he centered Hendricks and Halpern, and skated a team-low 8:26. MP85 still netted an assist and was a +1 for the second consecutive game, though. Boudreau has admitted testing out both MJ90 and MP85 on wing in practices, and I would love to see that put into effect in a real game. Ideally Johansson would be on wing solely because Perreault is better at faceoffs. But if there really is a controversy here, why not settle it by giving the fans and players what they want: ice time for both of the promising youngsters.
 Not the greatest start to the season, and certainly not what fans expected in terms of goaltending, but wins are wins, especially against division rivals. And again, the Caps allowed eight goals, but scored nine plus two in a shootout. If the offense keeps up and the Vokoun locks down, this could be a good year after all. 

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