The Washington Capitals two-game road trip through western Canada didn’t go nearly as smoothly as Bruce Boudreau had imagined. It started off with the Capitals potent offense being shut down by the young Edmonton Oilers team, losing 2-1. It seemed as though all the bounces, and calls, went to the Oilers. It was a penalty filled game, but mostly for the Capitals. It was the Capitals first loss of the season, moving them to 7-1-0 on the season, with them still sitting strong atop the Southeast Division. Then the Capitals traveled to take on last year’s Presidents trophy winner and Western Conference Champions, the Vancouver Canucks. This game was one that many would call a ‘gut-check’ to see what the Capitals were made of. The Capitals ended up losing for the second straight game by a score of 7-4. The teams entered the third tied at four, and it looked like the Canucks just wanted the win that much more. The second loss in a row left the Capitals sitting at 7-2-0 on the season, but still atop the Southeast Division.
Tomas Vokoun made his seventh and eighth consecutive starts on the trip, playing extremely well in the first game against the Oilers, but was yanked early on against the Canucks after allowing three goals on 17 shots. It was time for Michal Neuvirth to step up and play in only his second game of the season. Neuvirth stepped into net at the beginning of the second stanza allowing only one goal. However, when it was all said and done Neuvirth fell apart in the third, allowing three goals. In total he gave up four goals on 26 shots. This raises the question of who will start in the Capitals next game against the Anaheim Ducks. Does Boudreau go with the veteran netminder in Vokoun, who would be starting his ninth straight game? Or does he go with the fresh Neuvirth who gave the game away in the third to the Canucks? I think he has to play Neuvirth to see if he can bounce back from such a poor performance. It will be a good test of the young and talented goalie. Plus giving Vokoun a few days off after a such a good start would be a good move for the team. Neuvirth has proved he can carry the load of a full-time goalie last season after Semyon Varlamov went down with a serious injury. I think it’s time to let Neuvirth fly and carry the team for the next few games in net.
As for the guys playing in front of the net, they need to keep hustling, grinding, and wearing out the opposition. It seems as though the superstars have returned to the nation’s capital this season, with Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green leading the team in points. This is exactly what the team needed, after all of these players had very poor years last year compared to previous seasons. Ovechkin is back on par averaging a point per game, and tied for the lead on the team with five goals. He also scored twice in the Capitals loss to Vancouver Saturday night. Nicklas Backstrom leads the team with 12 points in nine games, with ten of them being assists. Marcus Johansson has been out to prove himself after being benched the first game of the season. He is tied with Ovechkin for goals on the team and has been a major contributor to the Capitals wins. Mike Green has stepped up with six points in seven games. He has been sidelined recently with a severe ankle sprain and should be expected back in the near future. Alexander Semin has been playing very well as well, scoring big goals when the team needs him too. Many must assume that he is out to prove his worth again to stay off of the trading blocks.
Most of the Capitals success comes in the form of their grinders. Without them, they would probably be only a 5-4 or 4-5 team at best through nine games. They have stepped up and scored when needed and they have shut down the opposition’s top lines in almost every game to date.
The Capitals big guns, in addition to their grinders, will need to be on top of their game to shut down the Anaheim Ducks, who have also lost their previous two games. Both teams will be battling to upright their teams and get back on the winning track.
Be on the lookout for a preview for tomorrow night’s game against the Ducks.
Until then, Rock the Red.