With the government shutdown ongoing, it’s time to put D.C. on the map for a happier reason when the Washington Capitals host the Calgary Flames on Thursday night at the Verizon Center for the Caps’ home opener.
The Capitals are hoping to rebound from their 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and can do so by eliminating the costly errors that led to a couple of Chicago’s goals.
“Our turnovers gave them momentum and gave them some life,” said Capitals head coach Adam Oates after Tuesday’s loss against the Blackhawks. “They’ve got a good hockey team. It’s hard to play that way.”
Oates is absolutely correct. Had the Caps held concentration at 100 percent, they’d have beaten Chicago handily. Concentration is key tonight, especially from goaltender Braden Holtby who is expected to start. His error against Chicago when the score was tied at 4-4 (reaching for a shot that was going wide and inadvertently gloving the puck into his net) took away from what was otherwise a stellar performance from the young netminder.
“I didn’t do a good enough job tonight,” Holtby told Mike Vogel of Caps365 on Tuesday, perhaps being a little hard on himself. “There were two goals—obviously the second one that goes off Greenie at the side of the net and in, and then the last one…but the other ones—I know I have to work on those and make sure that I bail the guys out in those situations.” Indeed, Hotlby bailed his guys out many times on Tuesday by thwarting numerous clear-cut goal scoring opportunities, including two breakaway chances.
There were, however, some major defensive breakdowns against Chicago. Some might say that the Caps should be forgiven in that they were arguably playing the best team in the NHL. My take on Tuesday night is that the Caps played well under the circumstances—they sat in the locker room while the Blackhawks (appropriately) took a long time with their pre-game Stanley Cup banner celebrations and then came out and gave it their best shot. Mikhail Grabovski’s debut hat trick was one of many positives to be found in the close defeat.
Tonight, the boys in red must continue to be extremely dominant on the power play as they were at the United Center on Tuesday when they scored three power play goals. They need to keep the puck and not give it away as easily as they did against the Blackhawks.
With the offense humming along—and a shored up defense—the Capitals are capable of winning a lot of games this season as long as the netminding is strong. Expect that first win tonight at home.