Hello all Caps fans and readers! I’m glad to be your new Washington Capitals correspondent, bringing you Caps current events and analysis as I see it. While it’s all from my view, you, the fan, are more than welcome to comment and give your opinion as well. After all, this is all about rocking the Red.
I’d like to start of by going through the Caps’ last three games against division opponents: Atlanta Thrashers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Florida Panthers.
If you remember, Washington had finished off a solid two-game set, winning against the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators by decent scores. They were then set to go on a 3-game road stretch to most likely increase their lead in the Southeast division by 6 more points. After all, the Caps haven’t lost to any of these teams yet this season. Their chances looked pretty decent, considering their previous two games.
Washington began in Atlanta, and the game was no match for the Caps. The Capitals put up an EIGHT spot on the Thrashers, even after a struggling first period, where they gave up 18 shots. Nonetheless, the road Caps left the first frame with a 3-0 lead. The Caps only got progressively better throughout the game, scoring the final 4 goals in the third period, the team’s most recently best period of the game (remember in the very beginning of the season where that was the Caps WORST period?). The final score turned out to be 8-1.
In most people’s eyes, including mine, the Caps had 2 points down and had 4 more to go on this road trip. The Caps went into Tampa Bay to play the Lightning next, the team Washington has played the least out of all the Southeast division teams. Much to the surprise of all fans though, Washington began the game extremely poorly, going down 4-1 in only about 12 minutes into the game. A series of power plays for the Bolts helped to power the Tampa offense to get 4 goals on Washington so early. Jose Theodore came in relief of Michael Neuvirth as an obvious result. The Caps managed to tie the game at 4 by 12 minutes into the second period, causing Tampa Bay starter Mike Smith to also be relieved of his duties. Unfortunately for the Caps though, the Lightning scored with under 3 minutes of play left in the second, and never turned back. The Bolts took the match 7-4 over the Capitals.
Something to note from that game, I think we have proof the team respects the captain, Alex Ovechkin. When a non-call of a slashing penalty occurred, all in the midst of the mess, Lightning Steve Downie goes into attack Ovie for an obviously clean hit. When Downie approaches, Matt Bradley tells Ovechkin that he’ll take the fight, and laid a nice couple of punches on Downie to take control of the situation. We all know Ovie is tough, and it’s a good thing that we didn’t have to see him risk anything going into this because his teammate had his back. Good news there.
Okay, so the Caps obviously weren’t going to award themselves with 6 points by the end of the road trip, but 4 points in total would be nice, wouldn’t it? So the Capitals traveled slightly south toward South Beach to play the Florida Panthers for the first time this season with Captain Ovie in the lineup. As the game started, it seemed almost the same game as the one in Tampa. The Caps were down 4-1 by midway of the second period, having to replace Neuvirth again with Theodore. The Capitals also were able to tie the game 4-4 in this game as well, except they didn’t lose their grip and held on to send the game to overtime. The game took 6 rounds in the shootout before Tomas Fleischmann was able to claim victory for the Caps, giving them a 5-4 win.
So what have the Capitals learned? I don’t know, but I wonder why they continue to start Michael Neuvirth. Okay, so I understand, he’s young so he will be shaky… I entirely understand that. Varly is still hurt, and Theodore could be traded in the instance that another goalie becomes available. But it is hard to watch some goals that Neuvirth should have had go in, especially since the Caps are trying to win as many games as possible – that means going into the playoffs. What to do about it? Unfortunately I have no answer at this moment in time, but it does concern me.
After all of this, the Caps end the 3-game road stretch with 2-1 and head back home to play the continuously struggling Toronto Maple Leafs and the recently successful Philadelphia Flyers, with all hopes of not taking their opponents lightly. It certainly doesn’t hurt to win those games after all.
Angie represented The Hockey Writers at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic and is credentialed for Washington Capitals home games. She is a NHL Contributor for SB Nation’s “NHL Scores & More” and covers high school hockey for The Washington Post. Angie attended American University where she studied broadcast journalism.