Tonight the Caps take on the NY Islanders in Uniondale, NY. The Caps can't take things likely and it would really be "good" if they play all sixty (60) minutes tonight. True, on Thursday night the Caps left Atlanta with two points and gave the Thrashers none, and a win is a win... However, there were several areas where I'd bet everyone would like to see the Caps improve on things tonight. I suspect Jose Theodore will get the nod in goal for his first game back after being out injured. Whether Alexander Semin and/or Boyd Gordon return to the line-up remains to be seen as well. It's also unlikely the Isles will shut down either the Caps first line, Alexander Ovechkin, or the Caps power play unit if they give the Caps seven chances. However, the Caps will need to stay on their toes when they are on the man-advantage as the Isles have been known to score a "shorty" every now and then. To be sure, I don't think the Isles are as weak a team as their current record would otherwise suggest. Also, in today's NHL, even the worst team having a very good night can beat the best team having an off night. It probably would have been worth a ride up to NY to catch the game as looking at the attendance figures for the Isles first four home games so far this season, it looks like what the Caps used to get 4 years ago and good seats are probably still available and it's only a five hour drive. A solid contingent of loud Caps fans at the game might help keep the team focused and in the game all three periods - something that seemed to be an issue during the third period in Atlanta.
In light of Thursday's game in Atlanta, a lot of discussion about secondary scoring is being had by Caps fans and around the Caps "blogsphere". Secondary scoring has many definitions and the general consensus focus in the blogsphere is scoring by other than a team's top six forwards. I look at things a little differently - first I look at goals, not points; second I look at overall offensive strength - does a team have enough weapons so if an opponent focuses on shutting down a star or two a team still has enough weapons to really hurt them and still win. On both counts I respectfully submit, the Caps have not had a problem or issue at all this season. Thursday's game just proved that beyond a doubt.
Looking at the Capitals' "goal scoring machine" this is what you see:
1) Alexander Ovechkin on pace for an 82 goal season
2) Alexander Semin on pace for a 54 goal season
3) Brooks Laich on pace for 27 goals
4) Brendan Morrison on pace for 27 goals
5) Matt Bradley on pace for 27 goals
6) Mike Knuble on pace for 18+ goals but likely to get 20+
7) Nicklas Backstrom also 18+ goals but likely to get 20+
Five other players have also scored including Mike Green somewhat off his pace from last season but looking more and more ready to break out, as is Eric Fehr who after getting a late start to this season has looked great the past two games. The fact is that when teams other than the absolute elite like Pittsburgh or Detroit focus too much energy at shutting down the Caps first line, there are lots of guys on the roster capable of putting the "biscuit in the basket" with a goal scorers touch and with Knuble, Laich, Fehr and team Captain Chris Clark all exuberantly crashing the net there are at least four guys who don't mind putting up numbers by "taking out the garbage." Also we still haven't seen if this will be the year that Tomas Fleischmann breaks the 20 goal mark after he returns to the line-up, but he sure got close last season. Assuming Green also flirts with at least 20 goals that means the Capitals could easily have 8 - 10 guys with 20 plus goals this season. They were also on that same sort of pace on Thursday morning - scoring, especially the "lack of secondary scoring" isn't any sort of Achilles' Heel for the Caps. The thing that gets me excited is when they play as well as they can, they shut down opponents, to me the Achilles' Heel is they don't do that consistently.
Well I won't be driving up to Long Island later this morning - tempting as it may be. I'll be watching from my perch in the den here in scenic Bristow, VA...
LETS GO CAPS!!!