F Street Faithful
The other day, I noted that there were just too many new faces on this Caps’ team and not enough time for them to learn a new system. Tonight, it seemed truer than I ever thought it was as they were doubled up by the Tampa Bay Lighting 6-3. Let’s get to the notes and breakdown.
Tampa Bay Goal: Eric Brewer (1) from Carle, St. Louis
This was really unfortunate for the Caps. They had carried the majority of the play up to this point. It was even the first shot that Braden Holtby had to face. Marcus Johansson gave Brewer way too much space as he sent a one-timer past Holtby’s glove. He was partially screened by Pouliout, but it is one that he will probably want back.
While I may have thought this day would never come, the Capitals are less than a week from opening the season down in Tampa Bay. What begins that night is a sprint of 48 games to attempt to make the postseason. There will be no time for elongated losing streaks or periods of uncertainty. Any team looking for a shot to lift the cup will have to come out firing on all cylinders. Those who stutter, will more than likely fall to the wayside. This could spell disaster for a Capitals team that has more questions than answers at this point.
Who is Adam Oates, the coach?
Any fan who has been around since the 90’s can easily recall the incredible talent that was Adam Oates. He was one of the most gifted playmakers of his time. He is now a hall of famer. That’s Adam Oates, the player. We honestly don’t know what he is like as a coach. This is his first shot to lead a team solo. Given his offensive successes with the Devils and Lightning, he figures to be more offensive than Dale Hunter, but is he is extreme as Boudreau was? As a player, he was able to hold his own on the defensive side of the game, but he hasn’t been responsible for running a blueline before.
Aside for strategy, how does he handle a dressing room? Is he capable of spurring a third-period comeback? If the problem with Boudreau did have to do with Ovechkin, can Oates handle him? He is given a lot of credit of turning around Kovalchuk’s career, so hopefully he can rejuvenate Ovechkin’s goal numbers.
It should not be a surprise to anyone that a lockout is undesirable outcome from these CBA talks. Players want to play; owners want to sell tickets; we fans want to see our team, or any team. When lockouts happen, nobody wins. And yet, not everybody loses the same. Obviously, there are teams in small markets, Phoenix, Columbus being the obvious chooses, that struggle to succeed financially when there is a season, but lockouts can also take stable teams back years.
The Washington Capitals have chosen former player, Adam Oates, as their replacement for Dale Hunter as head coach. Oates will join the Capitals fresh off of a Stanley Cup finals appearance as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. He spent the last two years with the Devils, after being an assistant for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Aside from those assistant gigs, Oates has never been a head coach at any level.
As a player, Oates played 19 years in the NHL, including parts of 6 seasons here in Washington. Like Dale Hunter, he was a member of the 1998 Washington Capitals team that took the franchise to their only Stanley Cup finals. He ended his career with 341 goals and 1079 assists in 1337 games and 5 All-Star Game selections.
The Washington Capitals acquired center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars for Cody Eakin and a 2012 second rounder (54th overall). The Capitals, and us fans, are hoping that McPhee has finally found the 2nd line center he has been looking for since Sergei Fedorov left in 2009.
Mike Ribeiro (32) is coming off his 6th season with the Dallas Stars. In his 74 games played last season, he scored 18 goals and 45 assists. He averaged just over 20 minutes a game last season, more than any other Stars forward. The one knock on his game is that despite being the top center for Dallas, he was not entrusted with many faceoffs. His 808 faceoffs ranked him 3rd on the Stars last season and he only won 42.2% of them, a number I would like to see improve a tad. He is in the final year of a contract that will see him make $5 million next season.
Here we are, a little over a month removed from the Capitals exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Despite not playing, the Capitals have had one of the busier Junes. We immediately learned of Dale Hunter’s decision to not return as head coach next season, instead returning to London. Then we had the word from Alexander Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, made it very clear that Alex would be heading to free agency. Of course, this claim was later refuted by Semin, but who knows with them Russians. Add in the decision to not offer contract renewals to Jeff Halpern and Mike Knuble, and the Capitals have set themselves up for one of the busiest summers in recent years.
To be fair, none of the events within the past month should have come as huge surprises. We all knew that despite being one win away from the Conference Finals, there was not a whole lot of happiness with the way this season transpired. When teams that should be dominating falter, massive shake-ups are quite common. We all remember what happened in Philadelphia last summer with Carter and Richards. The issue now is whether the Capitals choose to continue to invest in their previous draft classes or they go all out in free agency.
I’ve been planning this entry out for just about a month. With the struggles that this team had down the stretch, I just didn’t have a lot of confidence in this team. Now that it has finally come, due to a Game 7 loss to the Rangers, it wasn’t what I expected. The drive that the team showed through the first 13 games actually made me believe that they just might be able to prove that their style could lead get them somewhere. Instead, when all the pressure was on, they crumbled.
For the 3rd time in the past 4 years, the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In both of the previous 2 series, the Capitals and Rangers met in the first round of the playoffs, with the Capitals advancing on both occasions. This time around the two will meet having already advanced past the first round and, more importantly, the Rangers will be the ones with the home ice advantage. Here’s a quick look at what each team did in the regular season to get here. Parentheses note league rank.
Last night, after having stolen home ice from the Bruins via a 2-1 2OT win on Saturday, the Capitals fell to the Bruins in Game 3 4-3. Zdeno Chara gave the visitors the game winner with just under 2 minutes to go. To make the sting all that much worst, Chara’s point shot found its way in via the blade of Roman Hamrlik’s stick as he attempted to clear some traffic in front. The Caps may have finally found some of the offense that they were lacking in game one, but they have lost the discipline.
We all knew the Bruins would be coming into D.C. looking to get the Caps off their games. What was a potent offense in the regular season had been choked out by Dale Hunter’s defense-first style in the first 2 games. It was clearly not in their gameplan to be heading to D.C. with their only goals coming from Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. All that frustration finally went and flipped the switch on Milan Lucic, who made it his goal to disrupt the discipline of the Caps as much as he possibly could. Oh, it worked, big time. Lucic would end up making 3 trips to the box for extracurricular, but he made sure to take a Cap with him each time.
While it may have been in doubt during the closing weeks of the regular season, the Capitals do begin a playoff series tonight against the 2nd ranked Boston Bruins. While this will mark the 5th consecutive year that the Capitals will be a part of the playoffs, it is the first time since 2003 that they will enter the playoffs as a lower seed. That time around the Capitals were unable to hold onto a 2-0 game lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and eventually bowed out in 6 games, thanks to a Martin St. Louis triple overtime goal at the MCI Center. An interesting note, 10 players who suited up for Tampa in that series still play in the NHL, while only Jeff Halpern and Dainus Zubrus remain of the Capitals’ players.
This time around the Capitals have the daunting task of trying to dispatch the defending Stanley Cup champs. Here is just a quick stat comparison of the teams and respective leaders. Parentheses note rank in league.
About F Street Faithful
Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.