F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 01/14/13 at 01:50 PM ET
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.
Who’s in? Who’s out?
Last season, whether it was under Hunter or Boudreau, the Capitals’ line-up was a veritable carousel of players. Players like Knuble, Perreault, and Ward awoke each day with no idea of whether they were in or out each night. Even those who were secure in knowing they would be playing every night found themselves constantly switching lines. Right now, there are quite a few extras on this roster. Currently, the Capitals have 14 forwards on the roster (including recently signed Eric Fehr) and 7 blueliners (not including the injured Tom Poti and Dmitri Orlov). Add those to camp invites Cameron Schilling (Defence, Hershey) and Tom Wilson (Wing, Plymouth) and you have a numbers problem.
Nicklas Backstrom Karl Alzner
Jay Beagle John Carlson
Troy Brouwer John Erskine
Jason Chimera Mike Green
Joey Crabb Roman Hamrlik
Matt Hendricks Jack Hillen
Marcus Johansson Dmitri Orlov (Injured)
Brooks Laich (DTD) Tom Poti (Condition Stint: Hershey)
Alexander Ovechkin Jeff Schultz
Mathieu Perrault Cameron Schilling (Camp Invite)
Tom Wilson (Camp Invite)
Now, I would expect both Wilson and Schilling to find their way back to Hershey by the weekend. That still leaves an excess of 2 forwards and 1 defence. On defence, I would imagine the final spot will come down to John Erskine or Jack Hillen. On the front end, it should be Eric Fehr, Joey Crabb, and Joel Ward fighting for the final spots.
Who is the #1 in net?
Braden Holtby certainly set the world on fire last spring as he backstopped the Capitals through the first round and lasted a 7-game series with the top-seeded Rangers. But is that cause for him usurping the spot from Michal Neuvirth. It was not as if Neuvirth struggled and Holtby was better. Neuvirth simply got injured and Holtby stepped up. As somebody who is not a fan of the whole 1 and 1A system, I honestly don’t know who would be the better choice. Both of them have seen playing time during the lockout. Holtby went 12-12-1 with 4 SO playing in Hershey. Michal Neuvirth posted a 2.46 GAA in 24 games playing for HC Sparta Praha.
Who is proving the secondary scoring?
In the time period between the two lockouts, the Capitals’ scoring was fairly simple. Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin would combine to lead the first line scoring with Alexander Semin providing plenty of secondary scoring. This season, the Capitals will find themselves without the enigmatic Russian winger, as he has elected to take his talents to Carolina. It figures that just as the Caps find a true 2C, they lose the winger to play with him. Jason Chimera is coming off a big year (20G 19A) and should figure to fill in Semin’s vacancy on the second line. Wolski could be a huge factor too if he can rediscover the scoring ways that led him to double-digit goal totals in each of his first 4 seasons. He has combined for just 22 goals since then. The quicker they establish the second line as a legitimate scoring threat, the sooner we should see Ovechkin rediscover his stride.
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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.