Washington Capitals vs. Calgary Flames Analysis: Four Quick Thoughts
The Washington Capitals won their home opener against the Calgary Flames tonight in a spirited comeback. The Caps went down early 3-0 but behind Alex Ovechkin’s two goals and their power play, they were able to rally and tie the game in the third thanks to Nicklas Backstrom.
They then completed the comeback in the shootout after Mikhail Grabovski and Ovechkin both buried the attempts and Michael Neuvirth, in relief, stopped the Flames cold.
With that being said, here are four quick thoughts about the Washington Capitals’ performance tonight.
What a comeback!
This harkened back to the glorious days of 2009-2010 where the Capitals were simply going to outscore you. Through two games so far, the Capitals have been an offensive juggernaut, scoring four goals in each game.
The Capitals power play is proving to be a potent weapon (five goals on the season) and hopefully, this will lead to more space on even strength. With such a strong power play, any game is within reach.
The worry, of course, is how the game started. The Capitals again gave up an early goal and were forced to chase the game.
Additionally, the Capitals defense does not inspire any confidence. Right now, the “Cardiac Caps” have returned.
The question that the Capitals must answer, though, is how will this style work in the postseason?
The answer is obviously “not well”. The Capitals must fix this problem throughout the season or risk bowing out early again.
Alexander Urbom to make debut?
Jack Hillen appeared to suffer a serious knee injury in the first period and if the initial reports indicate anything, will be out for a good stretch.
The debate among all Caps fans revolves around who his replacement will be: Steve Olesky and Dimity Orlov are two front-runners and based on preseason and last season, both are good options.
However, the likely heir apparent, in this writer’s humble opinion will be Alexander Urbom. Urbom was claimed off waivers by the Capitals and they clearly thought highly enough of him as they sent Michael Latta back down to Hershey to give Urbom a roster spot.
Urbom is a defensive minded defenseman and could be the answer to solving the elusive shut-down defenseman we have been searching for. Adam Oates had to have been familiar with Urbom when the two were in New Jersey together and must have thought enough of him to bring him to Washington.
This is what Hockey’s Future says about Urbom in their scouting report (spoiler, it’s very encouraging):
“Urbom is a physically imposing player who is slowly learning how to use this trait to his advantage after two full seasons in the AHL. He was deployed in a more defensive role last season, which helped him refine and simplify his game in his own end. He is sound positionally and doesn‘t get caught running around nearly as much as he used to. Urbom is a mobile and efficient skater in all directions and is not afraid to lead the rush offensively. His shot is above-average and he times his pinches along the wall and into the slot well to try and create scoring opportunities for himself.”
Ovechkin rallies the Caps
Alex Ovechkin made it a game in the second period. The Capitals had suffered a letdown after Connor Carrick’s first NHL goal, allowing the Flames to restore their three goal lead.
In a span of four minutes, the Great 8 tallied two quick goals to cut the lead to one. This gave the Caps momentum and gave them ample time to equalize.
Ovechkin is a modern day “free-kick specialist”. He specializes on set plays and from his spot in the slot on the power play. All three of his goals so far have come from these positions.
Last season, we saw Ovechkin crash the net with aplomb, screen the goalie, and score the “dirty” goals. I haven’t noticed as much willingness this year and am curious as to what Oates will do to reignite the goal scoring flame at even strength.
Ovechkin has typically struggled in a possession-style system. He is at his best on the counter-attack with space but as that space has become harder and harder to find. As his career progresses, Ovechkin must adjust and thrive not just in space, but also in traffic.
Holtby vs. Neuvirth
Braden Holtby had another tough game tonight. He allowed three quick goals and was pulled in the first period.
What to make of Holtby? Two of the goals tonight were extremely soft goals and his performance against the Chicago Blackhawks was similarly inconsistent.
The biggest question mark with Holtby is consistency. At his peak, Holtby is an elite puck-stopper but at his worst, he looks confused and out of place.
On the other hand, while Neuvirth did make a terrible mistake handling the puck which lead to the Flames’ fourth goal, he also made 28 saves to keep the Capitals in it.
While I believe that Holtby is the goalie of the future, I think that Neuvirth deserves the start next game. Holtby needs to get back to fundamentals and needs to spend some time with Olaf Kolzig.