The Washington Capitals began the 2013 regular season in the United Center against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Emotions were high in Chicago last night, as the Blackhawks watched as their championship banner got raised in front of a sold out crowd. After nearly a half hour of celebrating, it was time to move on from last year and drop the puck to start a new journey for the cup.
There have been a lot of moves within the Caps organization this past off-season; the departures of Mike Ribeiro and Matthieu Perrault and then the signing of Mikhail Grabovski. Second year head coach Adam Oates finally had a full training camp to implement his system, so fans were intrigued to see what the offense could do against the best team in hockey from a year ago. Despite a tough loss on the road, fans could not have been too disappointed.
In a disappointing finish to the New York Rangers in round one last season, the Caps were left scoreless the last two games of the series. More offensive support was one of the focal points of the off-season and a big reason why Mikhail Grabovski was signed. In his debut with the Capitals, Grabovski finished with four total points: one assist and a hat trick. Quite the debut for the newcomer and one that shows what kind of potential Grabovski can have with this offense. Another element to the offense is the power play. Washington was first in the league last season in power play efficiency and critics were skeptical if that same production can keep up with the loss of Ribeiro. Last night the Caps were 3-6 on the power play. They were extremely effective and had the look of one of the more dangerous units in the league. The only power play disappointment came in the games final minutes, where Washington had a 5 on 3 man advantage and could not tie the game up. Overall, the offense was impressive. The third line with Joel Ward, Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera were getting great chances and were physical throughout the game. Alex Ovechkin looks like he is still in MVP form from last season and the second line with Grabovski, Laich and Brouwer played well.
Defensively, it was a rough night for the Caps at even strength. They lost the five on five game 4-1. Connor Carrick, the 19 year old making his NHL debut in his former hometown, had a night to forget. Defensive mistakes and a penalty of his lead to three Blackhawk goals. Braden Holtby had a solid game, but with some costly mistakes as well. The second goal of the game by Patrick Kane is one that Holtby should have had. He made up for that mistake with two tremendous one on one break away saves in the second period, one of Kane and the other on Patrick Sharp. The most costly mistake was the fifth goal by Oduya, which is one Holtby should have had from the outside. There were saves Holtby should have had, but then again throughout the game, there were saves he made that really should have lit the lamp. Overall, it was a good effort by Holtby in net, making his first start in an October game of his career. It was a great first night of Hockey in the NHL and one Caps fans should feel optimistic about. Despite the loss, the speed and offensive efficiency was there despite new moving parts within the team. So now moving on for the rest of the regular season, Capitals fans should be excited for what’s to come. It starts again in the Verizon Center this Thursday, against the Calgary Flames.