Okay so last night I went to my first live hockey game of the season and boy was it fun - reminded me why I love live hockey and not because the Caps pasted the Blackhawks either. Because it was just "good clean fun". First lets not get too excited it was preseason and all but here's what I saw that was what I will class as
1) The Caps that played last night were NOT the same ones that lost on Monday Night to Buffalo - this Caps team remembered how to put Shots On Goal and hey it worked... That's why in the next 7 days I can get free wings at Glory Days - YeeHa - who doesn't love free stuff?
2) The influence of having Mike Knuble on the team is indeed evident - he's not the only one crashing the net and looking to score down low. In fact one of Ovies two goals was from closer in then we've generally seen and to me, that means if "The Great 8" keeps that in his bag of tricks we might even see a 70 goal season. So in this regard a "Good" shout out goes to: Knuble, Ovie, Backstrom, Laich, Boyd Gordon and Captain Chris.
3) Mobile Defensemen and smart play by them - Shoane Morisonn joined the rush twice and had a positive impact; Tyler Sloan nice goal!; Brian Pothier is looking good and Tom Poti had a good game (except the 3 penalties...). Based on last night and the prior preseason games performance I'd say that right now Tyler Sloan is looking like fair possibility to open the season as a Washington Capital, if he does what that means, I believe is that Karl Alzner is in Hershey and the 5 and 6 slot on the depth chart any given night that 1-4 are filled by a healthy Green, Poti, Pothier and Morrisonn is split between the following 3 or 4 guys: Erskine, Sloan, Jurcina, and Schultz. The way these guys have looked in Camp and the pre-season, that would be a nice organically grown upgrade to where the Caps started last season off on the blue-line.
4) Seymeon Varlamov was very, very solid last night. He ended the night with a SV% of 0.929 and the two he let in were 1) a Power Play goal on a second shot and 2) a tip in off of one of his defenders (Mike Green). I think that unless Neuvy gets a shutout tonight he'll be starting in Hershey at the beginning of the regular season, backed up by Braden Holtby. Not hating on anybody here - just sayin' Varly's performance was hard to fault in any way.
5) I don't know if you want all that firepower on one line every night but watching the Ovechkin - Backstrom - Semin line was great fun - especially on Ovie's second goal which was the Capitals second of three power play goals of the night. Maybe this we don't really need a heavyweight enforcer approach can work. Semin's primary assist on Ovie's second goal was just classically awesome.
Wierd/Mildly Humourous/Akward Moments-Thoughts:
1) Mathieu Perrault can play at the NHL Level, however a) he's not ever likely to be your "go to face off guy" and b) he ought to know his limitations and NOT try and put moves on/out skate Bryan Campbell - though since it was a preseason game it was fun watching him try to do it.
2) The Caps scored 3 power play goals in 6 chances - nice!; the Caps gave up 2 power play goals in 6 penalties, pretty close to being ironic, eh?
3) Sickly feeling seeing Alexander Semin laying on the ice; ditto Patrick Sharp in a preseason game.
4) Interesting thought - four guys and only four guys who played last night were not +/- positive when the game ended: Mike Green, Oskar Osala, Andrew Gordon, and Kyle Wilson. Of those four only one was a Norris Trophy finalist at the end of last season, as of this morning's news the other three were all sent down to Hershey. Think the competition for roster slots is fierce in DC this fall?
5) I really need someone to give me some ideas as to what we should be "jeering" at Patrick "20 Cent" Kane when he's on the ice. "Hail A Cab" doesn't really have any relevance to ice hockey situations ... AT ALL...
Based on what we've seen so far I'd have to say the inside track for the competition for roster slots right now and the opening night lineup/roster are:
2) Laich - Morrison - Knuble or Semin
3) Steckel - Beagle - Clark
4) Laing - Gordon - Bradley
A) Green - Morrisonn
B) Poti - Jurcina
C) Pothier - Sloan
Reserves: Erskine, Schultz
Take a good look at that lineup, it shows that right now the impact of the extra defenseman the Caps have and a forward who doesn't fit their system means GMGM wil likely move somebody soon so when they go on their first West Coast road trip in mid-december they can take two reserve forwards (likely Nylander + one other) and one reserve defenseman. Also given the great caliber of play the younger guys in camp have shown so far, the Capitals are far more likely to pay Michael Nylander $5+M this year to ride the pine a lot and call up guys from Hershey who fit into the system when they are needed then they are to dress Nyls and have to try and adjust the play/game plan around whatever line he plays on.
So tonight it's the Rangers at MSG and the game is only being shown on NHLN-Canada so I may have to buy Center Ice already this season.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!