We made it Caps fans. The regular season for the Capitals starts tonight, October 5th, when our team faces off against the Ottawa Senators. Its been a rough offseason. Aside from that bitter, yet familiar taste of losing in the playoffs to the Penguins, this offseason was full of turnover and let downs.
Roster turnovers and Replacements: The Capitals this offseason needed to replace two of their top six forwards, and oh yeah, two of their top six defensemen. We knew that Karl Alzner wasn’t going to stick around (signed with Montreal Canadiens –dumbest name ever) and we also lost Kevin Shattenkirk (signed to the NY Rangers). The stinger was Vegas taking Nate Schmidt.
So where does that leave us? The young guns on ice needing to step up. Bowey, Ness, Djoos stuck around after roster cuts. The hope here is some youth and speed will help shore up a defense that at times looked a bit tired.
Holtby, you’re the goalie. It’s supposed to hit you: (Shout out to the Mighty Ducks) Holtby was a stud last year. Heck for the past 3 years he’s had 40-win seasons. Side note: Grubauer showed he was a solid backup. However with the roster changes on defense and the number and quality of shots that Holtby may face this year, our goalie knows it’s gonna take a little bit more:
“What we needed the last couple years was just consistency and not letting in goals that changed the momentum of the game, staying that steady, calming influence,” Holtby said. “Who knows? We might still have that again. If we don’t, sometimes you need the big saves. You need to make a lot of them at different times in the game, and it’s a different mentality sometimes.”
Ovenchicken new and improved? Too many times last year, the guys on the DTC podcast would constantly ask me why we still have Ovechkin and if he was our biggest liability in the playoffs. Yes last season he went from consecutive 50-goal seasons to almost career low 33. The reason? The Capitals had scoring depth. Sadly with Justin Williams gone and Marcus Johansson being traded, Ovechkin will need to step back up. I personally think he’s up to the task.
In addition to Ovechkin picking up the slack, the scoring opportunities for Burakovsly, Connolly, Lars Eller and Tom Wilson will be increased. The bigger roles hopefully will translate into more goals.
October Sucks: When the season schedule comes out for the NFL, analysts and fans are quick to break down the opponents and take a guess at their teams record. With baseball, basketball and hockey, its not that big of a deal. There are so many games, you focus on the key match-ups, the rivalries and biggies. This year however, the start of the Capitals season is rough. 8 of their first 12 games will be on the road. 3 of the 4 remaining home games, will be against teams that made it to the playoffs (Penguins, Maple Leafs, Canadiens).
If the Caps can get through October, and more importantly our new guys can step up and play some solid hockey, it should be enough to calm everyone down after such a sad looking pre-season.