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Capitals 4 Blackhawks 6 Recap

The Washington Capitals opened their 2013-2014 season with a high-scoring, gut-wrenching loss to the Chicago Blackhawks by the score of 6-4.  The Caps were able to stick with the defending Stanley Cup champs, even taking the lead for a couple minutes in the third, but weren't able to cash in on a late two-man advantage to force overtime.  The 8:00 game was delayed 30 minutes to account for the banner-raising ceremony for Chicago.  It was an incredible ceremony, but it seemed to go on forever.  On to the breakdown:

Washington Goals: Ovechkin 1, PP (Grabovski, Backstrom); Grabovski 1 (Ward); Grabovski 2 PP (Green, Ovechkin); Grabovski 3 PP (Green, Backstrom)
Braden Holtby: LOSS 29 Saves, 5 Goals.

Chicago Goals: Bollig 1 (Hjalmarrson, Kruger); Kane 1 (Toews); Seabrook 1 PP (Hossa, Saad); Saad 1 (Handzus, Keith); Oduya 1 (Saad, Hjalmarrson); Hossa 1 EN (Unassisted)
Corey Crawford: WIN 28 Saves; 4 Goals.

 

There is not really enough I can say about the play of Mikhail Grabovski.  The late-summer signing posted a hat trick in his Capital debut.  The first was the result of a great play by Joel Ward to spring Grabovski and Chimera on a 2-on-1.  Crawford bit on a slight head fake, leaving Grabovski plenty of room to wrist home his first as a Cap.  He would add a couple of third-period powerplay deflections to finish off the hat trick.  With the primary assist on the Ovechkin strike, Grabovski had a hand in every Capitals goal.  

It might be a new year, but it looked a bit like last season watching the Capitals dominate the power play.  They went 3/6 on the night and that would have been higher were it not for a Eric Fehr post shot and some fantastic play from Corey Crawford.  It can still be a bit infuriating to watch as they pass back-and-forth between Green and Backstrom waiting for a play to appear, but you can't argue with the results.  It would, however, be nice for some of this offense to show up during even strength play.

For the first time since 2003, when Boyd Gordon and Steve Eminger suited up, the Capitals gave jerseys to two teenagers, Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick.  

  • Tom Wilson, playing alongside Martin and Erat and Michael Latta (more on that in a bit), didn't really impress, though he did skate less than seven minutes.  He skated only three shifts in the third period.  
  • Connor Carrick, who happens to hail from the Chicago area, had a bit of a rough night.  On the first goal for Chicago, Bollig easily shrugged off Carrick on his way to depositing the rebound.  In the second period, Carrick was sent to the box for hooking Bollig, where he was able to watch Seabrook put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2.  Carrick would skate only three shifts in the third, and it still didn't get better as he and John Erskine were unable to prevent Saad from getting free around the crease and knotting the game up at 4.  He has to improve

As I said, Martin Erat skated alongside Michael Latta and Tom Wilson on the fourth line.  This meant that the entirety of the return the Capitals received for Filip Forsberg last year (Latta and Erat) started this season on the fourth line.  Erat managed to do better than his linemates, as he was able to skate nine minutes.  Yes, it's only the first game, but it's not great to see a guy with a $4.5 million cap hit playing less than ten minutes with two rookies. Erat, for his part, didn't help himself by allowing Hossa to penetrate on the power play.  Hossa's initial shot was saved by Holtby, but Seabrook would fire the rebound home.

Speaking of Braden Holtby, he was unbelievable at moments.  Trailing 2-1 a the start of the second, he made a great save on Patrick Sharp after John Carlson gave it away at his own blue line.  He would replicate this performance later when a Johansson neutral-zone turnover would send Kane in alone.  Kane would attempt to do his best Peter Forsberg impression, but Holtby held the line.  Yes, he let in five goals, but it could have been significantly worse.  He will, however, probably want the game winner back.  Johnny Oduya found some space at the right point to get a slap shot away.  It was a bit of a knucklepuck that deflected a bit off of Joel Ward, but it was still heading wide.  Instead, it took another deflection, this time off of Braden Holtby's glove and trickled into the net.  

If giving up five goals isn't the fault of the goaltender, it has to be the defense.  And it was.  As previously noted, the first goal was the result of Connor Carrick being unable to cover Bollig.  It also came after Jack Hillen was overpowered along the boards.  Kane was given way too much space to load his wrist shot up on the second goal, even if Holtby will say he should have had it.  Erat gave Hossa space leading to the powerplay goal.  And there was a lack of communication between Erskine and Carrick (who did not start the game together) that cost the Caps their third-period lead.

It probably wouldn't have mattered, but I am of the opinion that thre referees made the wrong call in awarding Hossa a goal when he was taken down by Green with the net empty.  Hossa did not have anything close to posession and the puck was moving away from goal.  Had Holtby been in the net, a penalty shot would have never been awarded.

Honestly, this game was not nearly as bad as I make it seem.  They were able to match the defending champions both offensively and physically.  Like any game, they had their chances to get some more goals, but it is only one game.  The defense might not ever be elite, but this team has shown they can make up for it on the front end.  I don't think going back to all-offense system of Boudreau is the right move (and I don't think Oates is pushing for it), but this team isn't going to succeed if they are handcuffed offensively.  The Caps will make their way back to Washington for their home opener against the Calgary Flames.

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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 overtheboard@gmail.com.