On Saturday night, the Washington Capitals welcome the 4-0-0 Colorado Avalanche to the Verizon Center. However, the Caps’ Head Coach Adam Oates is not one to panic about his 1-3-0 team hosting an unbeaten outfit that has outscored its opponents 13 to three. Even though most of Oates’ forwards have yet to find the net through four games, he’s not raising any alarm bells.
“Our team is not a team that I think has problems scoring goals. We are right now,” Oates told the Washington Post on Friday. “Keep playing the way we’re playing … that’s the message. And if it means at some point we’ve got to shake it up, I’ll shake it up. But I don’t think it’s a chemistry thing right now.”
Oates may want to look at the second line’s chemistry; that line has yet to score during even-strength play. If it’s not a “chemistry thing”, then maybe it’s just growing pains for new center Mikhail Grabovski. It’s true that the Caps currently don’t have any problems scoring goals, but it’s also true that they don’t have any problems allowing them either.
Beyond the tenured Mike Green, Karl Alzner, John Carlson and John Erskine, the Capitals defense is either young, inexperienced or both. Steve Olesky, Alexander Urbom and Nate Schmidt (expected to make his first NHL start tonight) have a combined total of 45 NHL games under their belts. That’s a worrying statistic. An experienced forward is going to exploit such shortcomings frequently over 60 minutes.
Oates should also be worrying that the Caps, this year, are turning into a “one-man show.” Alex Ovechkin currently has 32 shots on goal, and the next guy down the shooting list is defenseman Green with nine shots. Imagine life right now for Washington if Ovie had been below-par so far. The top two lines simply must get more shots on goal and quit relying on their captain.
Tonight, the Capitals need to put in a whole-team effort, eliminate costly turnovers, do better on the penalty kill, and have their goaltender bring his “A” game. They are up against a team that is on fire at the moment with a goalie (Semyon Varlamov) eager to impress his former club.
Anything less than a solid win on home ice tonight will result in the need for Oates to talk the talk and “shake it up” a little.