WASHINGTON, October 19, 2013 — At first glance, Washington Capitals fans might think this is the same team as last year, a team that started the season slow and without intensity. After last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Capitals showed that they had been working on their puck handling and passing skills this off season.
Last year, John Carlson was unusually turnover prone and lackadaisical at times. Last night, a much improved Carlson looked sharp and precise as he weaved in and out of defenders like practice cones. Then, in the third period, Carlson alertly saved a puck from crossing the blue line and preserving their offensive set play.
Martin Erat tallied three assists for the first time in his career since 2010. Erat is proving to be a brilliant acquisition for the Caps. Erat and Nicklas Backstrom are two of the best passers in the NHL. The Capitals were fortunate to have Backstrom but the addition of Erat last year has really strengthened the teams’ passing attack for multiple line changes.
The benefit of having two assist-maestros like Backstrom and Erat is magnified when you have last year’s NHL MVP, Alex Ovechkin. Ovi scored in the third period last night to put the game out of reach at four to zero. Although Ovechkin scored from his usual spot, the left side of the power play set, the passing just looks really crisp and like clockwork, especially for this early in the season.
The key to this year’s success will prove to be Braden Holtby’s solidarity in goal. Last night Braden had 37 saves and was quick with his decision making, routinely sweeping the puck out of his area. Holtby only allowed one goal and it did not come until there were 4:55 left in the game.
Head Coach Adam Oates is still not pleased with the performance of the Capitals so far this year. He was quoted after the game saying “it has been a tough home stand (for the Caps)”.
Oates also feels that the Caps are not where they were at the end of last season in terms of passing and efficiency. However, last night showed promise for the team and it demonstrated that this team has heart and plays with grit.
Even while up by three goals late in the game, the Caps played hard and with intensity until the final horn. Adam Oates seems to have set a bar higher than any other Capitals coach.
He expects a lot out of his players and that probably explains why they have bounced back so quickly after a disappointing season-opening home stand.
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