The Washington Capitals began their 2013-14 NHL season with a 6-4 defeat against the Stanley Cup holding Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The game was a close affair with neither team gaining a two-goal lead until the closing seconds. Despite the score line, there were some significant positives for the Caps to take from this back-and-forth game. The first of which was Mikhail Grabovski, Alex Ovechkin, and a power play that started this season where it left off from last season.
Grabovski proved he’s an adequate addition to the club by chalking up a hat trick and an assist in his Caps debut as the new second-line center. All thoughts of that position’s former occupier (Mike Ribeiro) disappeared after Grabovski’s solid display. His first goal was a work of art on a 2-on-1 play, a wrister up high. His second and third goals were deflected in off his stick from Mike Green bombs, but that’s the kind of thing the Caps need this season — a guy in front, getting in a goalie’s space and deflecting them in. So, job well done by “Grabs.”
Ovechkin proved once again that his outstanding talent is essential to the franchise by scoring a power play goal and assisting on another. He was all over the ice and recorded an impressive nine shots on goal. It was the kind of performance that it took him a while to achieve during the Caps’ stalling start to last season. However, if he keeps playing in this vein, the Capitals won’t have the same issues in the coming weeks. I see them winning most of their first 20 if Ovechkin and Grabovski take what they did in this opening game and run with it.
The Caps’ power play was outstanding and produced three of their four goals. More importantly, their men on ice took absolute control of the puck, taunting the Blackhawks’ defense to the point that the crowd got extremely impatient. With Ovechkin, Green, Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom on ice for power plays, the Caps are able to repeat their accomplishment from last season by ending the season with the best man-advantage outfit in the NHL.
The Caps’ goaltender Braden Holtby had a magnificent game except for one glaring error. Late in the third period Johnny Oduya flipped in a shot that was going wide, but Holtby shoved out a glove and the puck deflected in. Until that awful moment, Holtby kept the game close by making some spectacular saves. Sadly, only the error will appear on the highlight reel, though. Holtby is talented enough to become a superstar goaltender, but the costly mistakes must be reined in quickly.
Ultimately, the Capitals held their own against a Chicago Blackhawks team that is more than capable of repeating as Stanley Cup champions and becoming an NHL dynasty this decade. The team showed some synergy, the defense looked more organized than during last season’s starting games and the forecheck was solid.
It was a promising start to the season for Washington, with Grabovski making the biggest statement on the night.