Washington Capitals Recap: Four Quick Thoughts on the Loss to the Chicago Blackhawks
The Washington Capitals fell to the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 on opening night. The Caps were hoping to play spoiler to the ‘Hawks banner raising celebration but instead suffered the loss in a high-scoring affair.
As part of Stars and Sticks coverage, we will be doing a quick-hitting article after every game and then a more detailed follow-up once we can examine the highlights and film. With that being said, here are my quick thoughts on tonight’s game.
5. The power play is still lights-out
The Capitals still have an electric power play and displayed beautiful puck-moving ability. They banged three pucks by Corey Crawford and each one was just as gorgeous as the last.
Mike Green and Niklas Backstrom were wizards pulling the strings and Green looked like he picked up right where he left off.
Two of his snipes deflected off of Grabovski into the net. While on the stat sheet, he will only get credit for two power play assists, these were not the mere “hockey assist” but a meaningful play directly resulting in a goal.
Another encouraging sign was Backstrom and Green’s willingness to pull the trigger. After Ovechin’s initial goal, the Blackhawks cheated towards him and cut off the shooting lane. This left Backstrom and Green open and they took full advantage.
4. Mikhail Grabovski’s Debut
What a debut for Grabovski. He lit up the stat sheet with a hat-trick and an assist, making a good case for his payday at the end of the season.
Thank God the Maple Leafs released him and that we were able to pick him up for a song.
While Grabbo picked up two (relatively cheap) goals on the power play, I was more impressed with his work at even strength.
He looked sharp playing with Brouwer and Laich and while the announcers fawned over Laich in his return, I think it was a symbiotic relationshop.
Laich did look great but part of that was because Brouwer and Grabovski did a great job working together, cycling the puck, and board play (with the caveat that I haven’t gotten to take an in-depth look at the stats).
3. Even strength play
It was an interesting night on even strength. The Capitals won play in the first and looked like the better team but entered the dressing room down 2-1.
The second quarter, though, saw them completely got overrun. The Blackhawks dominated the game from that point on and looked in control.
The biggest difference was that the Capitals finally showed a willingness to possess the puck and were able to generate chances—they just weren’t able to finish them.
I saw some encouraging signs especially from the second and third lines. I think that we will be a much more balanced team because of that and am excited to see what we do moving forward.
4. Defensive woes
Finally, not the best night for the defense. The defense didn’t look any better than they did last year.
They were consistently out of position and gave the Blackhawks multiple scoring chances. While Holtby looked awful for goals two and five (Kane and Oduya respectively), he also stoned the ‘Hawks multiple times from point-blank range.
Our defense looked one step behind all night. Mike Green and Connor Carrick looked outmatched and were terrifying to watch as a fan.
I think Carrick has a ton of potential but am not thrilled about his partnership with Hillen. Again, I feel that the last piece of the Capitals puzzle will be two defensemen and while I hate to do it, I think that the only way to get an elite guy will be to trade Mike Green.
I don’t know who would take him for equal value or who we could get in return but to take the next step, the Capitals need to be better defensively.