Hockey season has finally ramped up. With the Caps’ first two games in the books and a break before the next matchup, let’s analyze what’s happened so far.
First and foremost, Washington won both divisional games. They also gave one point to both divisional opponents.
The Good News
Making more than a couple roster changes in the offseason at key positions can have it’s up and downs. This Capitals team is showing enough poise and skill to win games during the lows. Their early clutch factor should lead to a nice roll at some point.
They also look really solid in net. Don’t expect too many more of what Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher called “weird” goals on Tomas Vokoun.
The Bad News
Nicklas Backstrom isn’t looking like the second highest paid player on the team. While his offensive playmaking is rounding into form, his play needs to show more awareness and grit. The Face-off losses on the Power Play are hurting the team. Also, the Caps have given up eight regulation goals. That part isn’t Backstrom’s fault, just needed to be noted. For the record, this writer believes Backstrom will be an improved player by the end of the season.
What Stands Out
The Brooks Laich line is genius. When reporters and analysts questioned the amount of money he got in the offseason, and his ability to score enough goals for his contract size, they didn’t realize that Coach Bruce Boudreau had a different plan. Instead of asking Brooks Laich to Wing or Center a line with Alex Semin, and score more points, they asked him to center a true Two-Way line. Laich, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera are tasked with shutting down the other team’s top line. They do this by grinding the boards in the offensive zone with savvy. Joel Ward seems to always win the puck from the eye test. Laich is the heart of the team. It’s perfect!
What Needs to Change
It’s fair to say that nothing needs to change. Coach Boudreau is doing an excellent coaching job thus far. His in-game line changes have been working and the team is scoring goals again. The fluky-ness of some goals scored against them means the defense is still playing good. One thing that may change a bit more in the future is Alex Oveckin’s line-mates. Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson will almost certainly see time on Ovechkin’s line in the near future.
What Needs to Stay the Same
The hard-nosed coaching style. Just because the aforementioned Johansson had a good game should not guarantee anything. Just as Ovechkin’s sometimes lax defense should limit his playing time. So far, Boudreau has shown he is willing to fight for his job and the success of the team. He is treating the top players as professionals and not youngsters. That means consistency. The great coaches set high expectations.
Washington plays their next game Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the NHL Network at 7:00 PM EST.