Friday, October 05, 2007

Taking Out the Thrash

Puck possession is a phrase that was tossed around a lot during training camp. We're going to be a puck possession team. It's easier to defend when you have the puck. These are guys who will keep the puck for long stretches of time.

Tonight we got to see it - and it's real.

Watching the first period tonight it was clear that so many things have changed since last year. Whether it's the fact that the Caps can now consistently maintain control of the offensive zone or the fact that the Thrashers' defense is just as good (ahem) as advertised, as a Caps fan you couldn't help but be in awe of the spectacular dominance the boys displayed in that opening frame.

Even the usual second period dropoff, which reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same, wasn't as catastrophic as it could have been. One goal, a softie that spoiled an otherwise stellar game by Brent Johnson, and that was it. They didn't fall apart. They weren't outplayed. They maintained pressure. It was a tougher period, for sure, since Atlanta decided to come out and play for 20 minutes, but the Caps held their ground and weathered the storm en route to win #1 of the year.

Good/bad time, let's break it down.

- Puck possession. Hello. The new scoresheets don't seem to show this kind of stat but by my count the Caps spent the majority of the first period and in fact the majority of the game itself in the Thrashers' zone.
- The power play was steadily improving with each preseason game and although they only connected for one tonight, the Caps looked pretty scary with the extra man. And for once I mean scary in a good way.
- Kozlov is slowly but surely winning me over and at times he was more visible out there than Ovie, putting together another great game and getting a hard-working deflection goal for his efforts.
- I really thought Brent Johnson looked incredibly sharp despite the one bizarre puckhandling moment that gave everyone a heart attack and the one soft goal he let in during the second. He came up big against guys like Kovalchuk and Hossa, neither of whom is exactly a slouch in the goal-scoring department.
- Penalty killing was good but the Caps also only took 5 penalties all night...and a few of those were questionable in my mind. I'll have to watch the replay but at first glance the refs were making some weird calls.

- What is with the second period siesta the Caps always, always take? There's no reason to let up like that, especially not with a two-goal case they forgot, they blew a few two-goal leads during preseason.
- No hitting. I'm a little concerned that this team has gotten soft, and it's what happens when you don't have guys like Sutherby and Clymer out there every night. Skill is good but when you've got big bodies like Poti and Kozlov not using their size, that's a problem.

Wow. I can't remember the last time good stuff outweighed the bad. Hell of a way to kick off the season, wasn't it? And it just keeps getting better, as tomorrow the Caps play host to the Carolina Hurricanes for the home opener. Don't forget to come out to Verizon and welcome the boys back - wear red and cheer loud, the Caps are back!


Murshawursha said...

I call shens on both the goaltender interference calls. Looked like the caps player was checked into lehtonen both times.

Victor said...

One game does not a season make, but still, there were promising signs. I'm still concerned (and the gf is realy concerned about the blue line. While it's easier to defend when you have the puck, there will still be stretches when you don't have it. You shoulda heard Nic last night--all she wants are plumbers and defensive d's, not d's who can shoot the puck.

I found it telling that in the pre-game, the only time they mentioned a Caps defenseman was Vogs saying the Caps have some defensemen who can "bring it" then mentioned Poti...and didn't mention the defense again until they went into the starting lineups. They spent more time discussing the Atlanta defensemen than Caps defensemen.

Offense will get you a victory, defense will preserve that victory.

Chris & Sarah said...

I was checking out the standings in todays paper, and guess what....

We're tied for first in the division with Tampa Bay.

WE'RE #1! WE'RE #1! WE'RE #1

(I might be a little hasty in my celebration, but it does feel good)

Chris & Sarah said...

Damn! Canes have one more point.

Told you my celebration was premature.

CapsChick said...

Murshawursha: Couldn't agree more. They were horrible calls - I would say there were probably only 2 legit calls on the Caps all night.

Victor: Cautious optimism is good, but yes, it was a very promising start.

I'm actually not too concerned about the D - not because they don't need work but because I think they'll only get better. Green looked great last night. Erskine will play sparingly. And I'm hoping Schultz makes a return trip to Hershey once Eminger's ankle gets better (and yes I think that's an upgrade, at least for now).

C&S: Ha! I was just coming over here to tell you that the Canes had one more point (thanks to my stupid Habs, sorry about that :D) but you beat me to it! Still. T-2nd is game down.