First preseason game in DC and what I know about the season
Carden Hedelt on Fri, 2013-09-20 18:30
Tonight is the first preseason game in D.C. for the Capitals. Their preseason roster is playing the preseason roster of the Chicago Blackhawks, the champs themselves.
If Washington Redskins fans can tell you anything about preseason results, it’s that preseason game results are beyond all of lies, damn lies and statistics. Don’t stress the score. This is still part of the buildup to a real season of hockey and the score is not important.
What’s important is that there is hockey in D.C. again. This I know.
(There will be an outdoors game in D.C. in 2015 too. The temperature during the week will undoubtedly hover around 45 degrees and the game will be played on ice the consistency of a snow cone. Book it.)
What else do I know?
I know that Alexander Ovechkin will continue to be the single most entertaining player in the NHL. You never quite know what exactly he’s capable of. I don’t think he knows what he’s quite capable of yet, either. On any given trip up or down the ice, he could break off a goal equivalent to his famous backsliding goal against the Coyotes. Or he could run someone over. Or he could skate around the perimeter of the offensive zone, puck on stick, twice fully. There is no way to know. He’s a high-variance player of the best sort—more highs than lows, but enough lows to keep you wondering. And he was the MVP last year so that counts for something, right? Not like that got washed out by anything like another disappointing first-round playoff exit. (It did. It totally did.)
I know there’s still a reason to be excited about this team. I am not excited for the "core guys" of yesteryear, sans Ovechkin. Rather, I'm excited about the defensive pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner, young guys who will play together tonight. I'm excited about watching Braden Holtby continue to develop, who was in the top 10 in wins, goals against and saves. His GAA has crept up from 1.79 in his rookie season but that was always going to happen. I'm excited about Mikhail Grabovski. I think that he will do better playing for a coach who is not a "idiot". I think he will be better and infinitely less frustrating than Mike Ribeiro, who was the Capitals best player for a stretch last year (not based on fancy stats). Hell, I'm excited at the prospect of a Martin Erat-Grabovski-Troy Brouwer line. That pushes Brooks Laich onto the third line with Joel Ward for an extremely expensive third line that I'm not excited about. Repeat: not excited about that.
I know year two under Adam Oates will be a success. Getting a new coach in a lockout-shortened year with extremely limited preseason practice time is the worst scenario there was for Oates. The 2-8 start was to be expected. Getting the third seed in the playoffs (RIP, Southeast Division) was not to be expected. It was a very pleasant surprise. Getting washed out of the playoffs in the first round again was unpleasant and caused for brows more furrowed than Oates's own in the Verizon Center. But he's as good a coach as the Caps have had since early Bruce Boudreau and I think we're lucky to have him. Aggressive forechecking is a good thing. Understanding that offensive chances come from playing responsible defense and capitalizing off of turnovers in the neutral zone is a very good thing. What's most encouraging about Oates is that he seems to have his players behind him, starting with Ovechkin.
That is what I know.
This is what I think.
I think Mike Green is always going to suffer lapses on defense that will frustrate me terribly. Oates will do his best to help that but there's only so much a coach can do.
I think during this season, we will see the Filip Forsberg-for-Martin Erat trade swing in Nashville's favor.
Worst of all, I think George McPhee is safe still after this season.
But why think those things now? Hockey is back, and on time. I think that is wonderful.