F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 10/06/11 at 06:30 PM ET
Tonight, hockey finally makes its return. While the Caps do not kick their season off until Sunday, there are some great games on the schedule tonight, so check them out. All Caps fans should have some interest in the Flyers/Bruins game (7pm on Versus), as former Cap Jaromir Jagr makes his return to the NHL after a 3-year stint playing in the KHL. I do not plan to try to hide my smile the first time he finds himself on the wrong end of a Zdeno Chara check.
As much as we all enjoy hockey in all forms, it all comes down to the team from D.C. as they once again begin their quest for the Cup. It all starts with Carolina as they look for their first win since they eliminated the Rangers in game 5 of round 1 last spring. Here are my predictions:
Top 3 Goal Scorers
: Ovechkin: 44 Goals in 75 GP; Semin 36 Goals in 68 GP; Backstrom: 27 Goals in 82 GP
: Nicklas Backstrom: 56 Assists in 82 GP
Tomas Vokoun: 39-18-4; 8 SO
Michal Neuvirth: 10-5-2; 2 SO
Braden Holtby: 2-2; 0 SO
: Alex Ovechkin, 3 Games, High Check on Jaromir Jagr
Most Integral Part of Success
: No surprise here as it will be Alex Ovechkin. After reaching 50 goals in 4 of his first 5 seasons, Ovechkin found himself struggling last year as he managed only 32 goals in 79 games. He has said he changed his training regimen this offseason in an effort to fix his game, but I don’t think it will be up to his conditioning. Last year proved that every defense knew how to stop him. In order for the Capitals to be dominant, they need their captain, and in order for Ovechkin to be dominant, he needs to attack differently this year. Once teams stop worrying about him, the whole offensive scheme starts to fall apart.
Player with the Most to Prove
: Marcus Johansson. Since the departure of Sergei Fedorov, the second line center spot has been a revolving door. These include Brendan Morrison, Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Belanger, and Jason Arnott. Each of them has proved effective in bursts but were never seen as long-term options. Johansson is that long-term option. He should easily be able to top his 13 goal/14 assist line from last year, but it is consistency that he must show if he wants to hold that spot for the coming years. With Eakin, Sjogren, Perreault, and Kuznetsov all waiting for a chance, the time is now for MoJo.
Player Most Likely to be Moved at Deadline
: This comes down between John Erskine and Jeff Schultz. This team is rather deep on the blueline. Saturday we will see 6 defensemen take the ice that would find themselves top 4 on a lot of teams. Erskine will be healthy before long, and I figure Poti will not spend the entire season on LTIR. That gives the Caps 8 blueliners, with Dmitry Orlov knocking on the door in Hershey. When this is factored in with the fact that Green and Carlson will need new contracts at season’s end, it only makes sense that 1 or 2 of them will have to be moved. I say Erskine because I figure he will remain a regular scratch even when he gets healthy. Erskine could fetch a 2nd round draft pick or a veteran at the deadline. Schultz, on the other hand, is a guy who put up great numbers and was a 1st pairing guy 2 years ago. Now he finds himself on the 3rd pairing with dropping numbers. Unless Schultz is viewed as a top 4 guy in the long term, it is best to move him now while his stock is still high.
: Even with a much-improved Tampa Bay team, the Caps should find themselves at the top of the division by season’s end. Tampa will lead it for a few weeks in January but will end up dropping due to the fact that their goaltending tandem will be mostly dust by then. This should put the Caps at the top of the conference again over fellow division winners Pittsburgh and Boston. As far as what the Caps will do once in the playoffs, I choose not to predict, as I will undoubtedly jinx them.
On another note, I do have a fantasy-type league I have set up for anyone that is interested. There is no limit on spots, so just let me know either on Twitter (@FStreetTate) or e-mail (email@example.com)
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.