The Washington Capitals dropped their season opener by a score of 6-3 in Tampa Bay. The loss was pretty ugly from a defensive standpoint. As we stated in several pre-season article and you likely read elsewhere, the biggest concern entering the short 48 game season for the Caps was familiarity and comfort with a new system in Washington. That comfort was lacking Saturday evening.
After an extended layoff, not only do lines have to work on developing line chemistry, but also the offensive and defensive systems installed by new bench boss Adam Oates. Oates' system is starkly different than Dale Hunter's defense-first system of last season. The problem for the Caps is two fold. First, they had a very abbreviated training camp to pick up the components of the system. Second, with only 48 games on the regular season schedule, games early in the season are much more critical than the lengthy 82 game schedule. Room for error and system development is very short.
It was clear by sight and by the fact Tampa recorded 6 goals that the Caps struggled to pick up the nuances of the defense. Oates believes it will take some time.
Learning a new system takes time, a luxury the Capitals don’t have in this schedule. In case that wasn’t enough, the players must also find ways to ramp up their endurance to handle an NHL workload.
“It’s tough,” Coach Adam Oates said of the challenges to get up to speed with a new system. “It’s going to take the guys awhile and we’ve talked about that. Hopefully we can win enough games until it becomes automatic.”
Question moving forward is just how long will take for the Caps to become familiar with and comfortable in the system. More on the system change.
Chuck Gormley says grading Alex Ovechkin in the season opener is difficult to do and gives an incomplete. Ovechkin is not only learning the new system as well, but is adjusting to playing right wing at times.
Quick Ups and Downs:
Joe Ward. Wardo recorded two goals in the season opener. Both goals came from net presence and being around the net for rebounds left by Tampa goalie Anders Lindback. Kudos to Wardo.
John Carlson. Carlson recorded 25 minutes of ice time and finished a +2. He also recorded 4 blocked shots. A solid game for the youngster.
Braden Holtby: System unfamilairty, fine. However, allowing six goals can't all be blamed on the system. Holtby had a phenomenal playoff run last year, but did we really expect him to play at that level every game? If you did, you were fooling yourself. He is human.
Special Teams: Caps got three opportunities and fumbled them away. Overall, they were 1-4 on the man advantage. The penalty kill was even worse. Caops ended up a man short 7 times, including a 5 on 3, and allowed 3 Tampa PP goals. Certainly not the start that Adam Oates wanted as he stressed the importance of improved special teams play. Didn't happen Saturdasy night. l
System News: The Caps' AHL affiliate Hershey Bears hosted an outdoor winter classic yesterday at historic Hershey Park Stadium. The Bears fell to WB Scranton 2-1 in over time.no comments