Sunday, September 30, 2007

Preseason Ends Strong Despite Loss

It's hard to really count tonight's loss as a loss - in fact it's hard to say that about any of the four games the Caps have dropped. There were very few times in this game where the Caps looked outmatched, outplayed, or even as though they were trailing. There were little issues, obviously, and every time a mistake was made the Senators seemed to capitalize.

But there's no shame in falling 2-1 when you were the better team on the ice for the majority of the game. (I say that now when the games don't matter...check back with me if they drop one like this during the season.) The Caps not only had more shots than the Senators but they had more chances, more flurries and more time in the offensive zone with the puck. If this is what a puck possession team looks like, sign me up.

There were good things and bad things about this game as there always are, but tonight really is about the end of preseason rather than the result of one game. The final meaningless match is in the books and the Caps have finished with a very respectable 3-4-1, a record which doesn't even show the remarkable improvements this team has made heading into the regular season.

- Every game was won or lost by one goal, so even when the Caps lost or gave up a lead they managed to hang in there with teams that many people are picking to finish above them this year. And yes, I'm counting Friday's 7-5 comeback win as a one-goal game - an empty netter with 2 seconds left, as nice as it was, doesn't count in my mind (sorry, Stecks).

- The Caps have cut way down on the number of shots allowed, shaving an average of almost 10 shots per game off their numbers and limiting their opponents to less than 20 shots in four of their last five games.

- Opponents have been limited to 2 goals or less in four of the seven games, including two of the losses. Toss in a healthy bit of firepower from the top two lines when things start clicking and more of those losses should start to turn to wins.

So now some things to think about as we head into a few days off with the roster deadlines looming:

- Dave Steckel, although not as strong in his final game as he has been his last two or three outings, continues to be in the mix. He seems ready to make the transition to the NHL and has proven, if belatedly, that he deserves to be up here in some capacity. If he does stay it will likely mean a trade or a demotion to the AHL for either Laich, Sutherby, Bradley or Clymer.

Say what you will about these guys but I personally love what each of them brings to the team and the way they play. Throw in the fact that each one has had a pretty good camp and this gets downright tricky, so I'm not even going to try to decide who should stay. GMGM will make the best decision for the team, I'm sure.

- Our goaltending tandem has put together some good performances this year, but at times Brent Johnson has seemed to be a little stronger in net. Just something to worry think about...although I'd expect Olie to get back into his old routine any day now. At 37 he just has a little more rust to shake off than he used to. I hope.

- Some of our young prospects are no longer prospects and we're starting to see the development of guys like Mike Green, Tomas Fleischmann, Chris Bourque, Kyle Wilson, and numerous others. Should injuries or illness strip this team down at any point this season I'm feeling much more confident in the ability of depth players and callups to fill the void and carry the team through. And that's really all you can ask for.

- According to Tarik, Jeff Schultz has secured a roster spot and was told by the organization to get a place to live and a car. So not only does that surprise the hell out of me, but it makes things even more interesting going down the stretch for guys like Erskine, Green and Eminger. Yeah, because we needed more excitement...

Check back tomorrow night for news and pictures from the Caps Care Classic golf tournament. And naturally if Ovechkin picks up a golf club I'll try to get video. it Friday yet?

1 comment:

Chris & Sarah said...

Enjoyed the game last night but
I too was wondering about Olie: maybe it is the (awesome)decrease in shots allowed that is throwing him for a loop?

from the Sarah of C&S