Following a heartbreaking 6-4 loss at the Chicago Blackhawks’ United Center, the Washington Capitals are looking to earn two points in their home opener tonight.
Tuesday’s season opener was more unusual than most, as the Capitals were facing the defending Stanley Cup champion. While a prolonged banner-raising ceremony heightened emotions, it didn’t deter Chicago’s overwhelming offense. The Caps had difficulty maintaining their positions and thus gave the Hawks excellent scoring chances, several of which they capitalized on.
Despite the poor defensive performance from each of Washington’s pairings, there were several standout moments – namely what appeared to be Mike Green’s two goals. Though the points were eventually awarded to center Mikhail Grabovski, Green made his infamous offensive presence known.
However, rookie Connor Carrick didn’t experience the same success as Green. After a lauded training camp, Carrick signed with the Capitals and appeared on Tuesday night’s roster. Yet, he made several key errors that led to Blackhawks goals and was outplayed. Carrick has since acknowledged his mistakes and hopes to learn from them, and Adam Oates thinks he’ll do just that. Carrick is slated to be part of tonight’s lineup, and should he remain in Washington, it’ll be fascinating to watch his play develop.
While Carrick may be a concern, Capitals fans still have much to celebrate. Losses are never enjoyable, but the Caps have a good chance of defeating the Calgary Flames on home ice. It’s no secret that Calgary is rebuilding and therefore a long shot to win the Stanley Cup, so the Capitals will hopefully use tonight to focus on the areas of their game Chicago preyed upon.
The Caps’ power play was phenomenal Tuesday night, as they scored on three of their six opportunities. The team is hoping for additional opportunities to hone their power-play unit, as Calgary took a multitude of penalties in the preseason – a trend that isn’t likely to dissipate. On the other hand, if it’s Washington without the extra man, the Caps will continue improving their penalty kill. Chicago converted on only one of their four power-play chances, but the Caps’ PK has been notoriously inconsistent.
Special teams can help win games, as seen in the Capitals’ season opener. Though the Caps failed again to score on a 5-on-3, that isn’t the most pressing issue of the hour. Washington needs to bulk up on even strength and maintain a steady forecheck. Will playing the Flames tonight be a good test drive of these intangibles? Only if the Caps build on the strong start they displayed in Chicago.