Saturday, October 06, 2007

Storming the Hurricanes

It's easy to get carried away and start saying the Caps are a playoff team already, and we all should have the following statement running on a loop in our minds: we're only two games in, there are eighty left, anything can happen and the season is still young.

But after watching last night's performance and then tonight's performance, you have to admit one thing - this is a completely different team from last year. This is a completely different team even from the preseason. This is a team that has the potential to turn a lot of heads and change a lot of minds.

Tonight I think we got the closest we've gotten to a full 60 minute game in a long time. There were little flurries by the Canes, little turnovers by the Caps, a brief heartstopping stretch at the end of the game - but before, after and even during those moments the Caps never seemed to be anything other than completely in control of the game.

What I loved about the way the Caps played tonight was that it might not have been a perfect game in the technical sense, but they had a tremendous recovery process. Every turnover or mental lapse was almost immediately corrected, either by the defenseman getting back in time or the forwards dropping back or Olie simply making one of his, by now, trademark brilliant saves. There were mistakes made as there are in any game - what matters is how you handle them, and the team we saw tonight can handle them just fine.

Some general observations:
- Penalty killing and power play are a million times better than they used to be, despite what the numbers look like with the extra man so far. And having to kill off only 9 penalties in the last two games (including a few that were really just bad calls and not undisciplined actions) is a terrific sign.

- I was going to say that Ovechkin has been playing like a man possessed these last two games but after thinking about it I don't think that's what it was. I think what we're seeing is a new level of his game. Whatever he did this offseason, physically, mentally, emotionally, it's working. He's found great chemistry with Kozlov and as an added bonus he's become a more well-rounded player at both ends of the ice. Oh, and blocking a shot with 3 seconds left just to help Olie preserve the shutout? Are you kidding?

- Kozlov again showed why he belonged on a line with Ovechkin - and Fleischmann again showed me almost nothing. I'm still a little perplexed about his purpose on the top line. It's not that he's playing badly exactly, he's just invisible.

- Mike Green. Awesome. I can't get over how much more confident he looks out there.

- The fact that the Caps kept Carolina to single digits in shots until about the halfway point of the game is still pretty awe-inspiring even hours later. The fact that Olie was able to be as sharp as he was during the second half after having a nice nap? Blown away. He was in classic Olie form tonight, which after a preseason that frankly looked a little shaky for the big goaltender is a huge relief.

- It took Olie a little over three years to get from shutout #33 to #34. He's jumped up to #35 after just a summer off. Not bad for a guy who turns 38 next spring.

- While walking home tonight from the arena my roommate and I were recapping the game as we always do and we realized that we didn't really see Staal tonight. In fact, we didn't really see any of the Carolina players tonight - the Caps had so successfully shut them down that until the last minutes of the game, every player in a white jersey was rendered nameless, faceless and virtually invisible, non-entities swarming around in a sea of red. Now that's a good game.

There's a much-deserved night off tomorrow (for players and bloggers), but don't despair - the Caps are back in action Monday, taking on our old pal Brendan Witt as they travel to the Island for a holiday matinee.

5 comments:

HG said...

Whoooo! Caps win! I am so happy for you! Yeath!

The Peerless said...

There's a reason you didn't see Staal...no shots on goal. Erik Cole didn't have any, either. That's a lot of their offense being shut out.

Dan, Jr. said...

Yeah, we are only 2 games into the season. But they're playing with such confidence & concentration, I'm overwhelmed with excitement. They look like they expect to win. They look like they belong at the top.

PaV said...

BAH! Have to admit, watched the hi-lights, they seems to be playing well - :P

CapsChick said...

HG: YEATH! :P

Peerless: I would have been happy with just holding them and ol' smush face Brind'amour off the board, but no shots is amazing.

Dan Jr: I have to agree - it doesn't look like the wins last year, when they almost seemed surprised by it. They expect to win and we should expect the same!

Pav: HA! Ahem. See?? I told you!