Friday, October 06, 2006

How Many 'R's in ARRRRGGGGHHH?

I've had a little time to unwind and reflect on the events of the Capitals season opener, and I am now ready to approach it in a calm and mature manner...the Rangers are all buttheads.

Okay, starting now.

To put it simply, tonight's game seemed like preseason - a mere dress rehearsal, like no one told the Caps that as of tonight, all games count. There were once again some individual performances that stood out but the team game was seriously lacking. There were multiple turnovers, the power play continued to be nonexistent, and the top line was on the ice for 4 of the 5 goals. Worst of all - Jagr scored. Blech.

I'll skip the long, detailed play-by-play - let's face it, if you're reading this you probably watched the game or at least caught the highlights (such as they were) on some sports wrap-up show. I'll go instead to the bad news/good news portion of our evening:

Bad News:
The Caps failed to convert on any of the 8 power-play chances tonight. Only two man-advantages featured decent passing and consistent scoring chances.
Good News:
The Caps were 100% on the penalty kill.
Better News:
The Caps took only three penalties all night, one per period. Of course, there goes my theory that taking fewer penalties will lead to a win, but it's something to build on...

Bad News:
The top line of Ovie, Zubie and Zednik combined for a total of exactly no points and each one was a -4 on the night. Ruh-roh.
Good News:
Semin got his first goal of the year - Alex 2.0 seems to be continuing his strong play from the preseason.

Bad News:
Defense was horrible. Need I say more?
Good News:
Ummm...I pass.

With that out of my system, I choose now to focus on the positive. Trust me, I too was doom and gloom as the game wound down, head in hands, let down once again by my beloved Capitals. But yes, nay-sayers and knee-jerkers, that silver lining I'm always looking for is still there. It may have taken me four hours to find it, but it's there.

First of all, the power play did seem to be coming together towards the end, which makes me think that it's really just a matter of time before it starts to click. They're learning to play together, and I still believe that this power play is going to be lethal at some point. Despite giving up four goals, Olie looked sharp - it was the defense that hung him out to dry.
There were even moments of team brilliance throughout the night, flashes of what could be when they finally get their acts together and play like we know they can.

Beech and Semin had very strong games yet again, and of all people Rico Fata was very impressive tonight. (A side note - according to Off-Wing Opinion, I am crushing on Fata...but come on, who doesn't love Rrrrrico?)

So what needs to be fixed before Saturday's home opener and what needs to stay the same?
- Penalty killing was great - very aggressive and kind of fun to watch. It helps when you only have to kill off three, so that should continue.
- I think we need Clark back on the top line, at least for now. He opens up room for Ovie and Zubie to play a little bit, which Zednik just can't do. Ovie was practically invisible for most of the night because the Rangers were simply able to close him off.
- For the love of god, can I get them to stop making those crazy diagonal cross-ice passes? They got picked off about 99% of the time. Passes like that barely work on good teams...
- Traffic in front of the net would be nice to see. Scratch that, traffic in front of the opposition's net. A goalie can only stop what he can see, and Lundqvist saw almost every shot.
- I liked the hitting throughout the night, especially the tag team effort by Ovie and Zubie on some poor Ranger. It was the only stat that was consistently better than the Rangers - keep it up.
- The Caps need to carry the momentum of what amounted to a fairly strong third period into Saturday's matchup with the 'Canes, who I'm sure are still smarting from being beaten at home after unveiling their championship banner (excuse me, I have to go laugh my ass off...)

Now here's how the big boys wrap up tonight's game:
Washington Post
Washington Times

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