Tonight, the Dallas Stars will host the Washington Capitals, who are searching for their first regulation win. It’s essential that they don’t allow the Stars to gain much of a lead, and that they don’t surrender theirs by becoming too absent-minded defensively. However, should either happen, the Caps are well-equipped with a scarily good power play.
Against the Calgary Flames, the Capitals set the stage for a mighty comeback by utilizing two of their three power plays. In the two games the Caps have played this season, they’re 5 for 9 with the extra man. It’s crucial they try and maintain these devastating statistics, although Adam Oates has stated that he wants the team to focus mostly on 5-on-5 play.
He has a point. The Capitals need to continue improving at even strength, namely when defense is involved (which it always is.) Following Jack Hillen’s horrid knee injury, Oates is facing a defensive quandary yet again. Who will step up and defend the blue line with rookie Connor Carrick?
Whether it’s fresh-off-waivers Alexander Urbom, fan favorite Steve Oleksy, or potential call-ups Cameron Schilling, Nate Schmidt, and Dmitry Orlov, one thing remains clear: the Caps must cease and desist when it comes to their multitude of defensive breakdowns. A potent offense won’t win them every game, and God knows shoddy defense won’t.
Having a weak defense corps not only weakens the skaters but makes the goalie’s job much harder than it needs to be. Braden Holtby has plenty to work on, and Michal Neuvirth can always improve too. Despite being pulled in the first period, Oates has stated that Holtby will start in Dallas. Neuvirth will likely be waiting in the wings for his golden opportunity, which could come unannounced – after all, Holtby has been working with Caps goalie coach Olaf Kolzig to make subtle, effective improvements to his game. While these changes are nothing drastic, they’ll still take time to sink in.
Getting back in the groove of things isn’t a problem only Holtby is facing; the remainder of the Capitals must also work to become a feared force, whether that involves making smoother passes or amping up the forecheck. Against Dallas, the Caps can’t afford poor defense, especially with a tremendous first line consisting of offensive juggernauts like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Keys to the game? Above all, don’t get fancy. After all, it’s only the third game of the season. The Capitals need to continue working out kinks in their game and keep their eye on the standings – they know better than anyone the importance of a strong start.