Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Mixed Beginning

"The penalties were...unacceptable." That was the reaction from a visibly upset Glen Hanlon following tonight's overtime loss to the Lightning, as the Caps preseason officially got underway. An outsider might question why a coach would bother showing emotion over a game that seemingly has little consequence. But Hanlon knows that for a team that could potentially be on the cusp of a playoff spot come April, a strong start is everything. Positive attitudes and results from training camp must carry over into real life scenarios in order for this team to contend for the top 8 in the conference.

Problems -

- Penalties, Penalties, Penalties: Although the Lightning started off the parade to the penalty box at just 18 seconds into the game, the Caps would soon follow as player after player took bad penalties, many in the offensive zone. With both goalies playing fairly well, it became a situation in which the slightest mistake can cost you the game - and that's exactly what happened when the Caps took a penalty in overtime, leading to the game-winner by Dan Boyle.
- Overall Chemistry: Now this is a preseason game, so the linemates are still adjusting to one another and the chemistry will have to be played with. That's the whole point of preseason - to make adjustments, change strategies, and identify your strengths and weaknesses. So I'll forgive the missed passes and the, er...running into one another and whatnot...
Still, it wasn't all doom and gloom tonight...sure, there were defensive lapses, bad passes, far too many penalties, and of course the loss itself. But there were also some bright spots.

So what was good?
- Power Play: The penalty kill may need work, but the power play showed definite signs of promise, as Ovie, Semin, Zednik, Pothier and Clymer danced around the defense and completed crisp pass after crisp pass. They would later capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity (!!!) to take a 2-0 lead in the game.
- Alexander Semin: Expectations have been high for Sasha since he arrived for training camp and there are still some questions as to whether he will come to play every night the way everyone says he can. If tonight is evidence of things to come, I'd say we're about to have 2 Russian superstars battling for the spotlight here in DC. Semin is just so strong on the puck and so patient - he just waits for the perfect opportunity to bury it. Of course, having said that, his goal came on a quick wrist shot off the faceoff, so what do I know...
- The Crowd: No, it wasn't a sellout crowd. It wasn't even close to a regular weekday game crowd, let alone a weekend. In fact, it was announced at 8,351 and probably wasn't even that many. But I was surprised there even was a crowd. Consider this - it was a Wednesday night preseason game when the Nats were at home playing the Braves (albeit in an equally pointless game). While there were a lot of empty purple seats, the upper and lower sections at center ice were actually pretty full and the best part was that people were into it - cheering when Ovie was announced, booing the refs, singing along to the Hockey Song...

There were many other good and bad things about tonight's game, but it is after all a preseason game and every little detail doesn't need to be dissected, at least not by me. The bottom line is that there are certainly improvements to be made before the Caps meet the dreaded Penguins on Friday and especially before the puck drops October 5. But I wouldn't be the full-blooded Caps fan I truly am if I couldn't squint and see the silver lining - trust me, it's there.

1 comment:

Me said...

Go Caps!