As many of you know I live in Virginia, and I took a trip to Verizon Center to see the Caps in their home opener against the Canes Saturday night. Some notes:
--The Caps came out very strong, outshooting the Canes in double digits throughout the game. It was hard to tell if it was just because the Caps played well or if Carolina was showing a little fatigue of 3 games in the first 4 days of the season.
--Alex Ovechkin had a sweet goal and was hitting people left and right. Still didn't go into the defensive zone too much, and had a puck roll off his stick on a clean breakaway, a goal he knew he should have had. So as good as he played, there's still room for more improvement.
--Matt Pettinger really impressed me with his physicality as a 3rd winger. He's been around for a while, but he was pretty noticeable to me for the first time.
--The Caps D was really good at passing it D to D. The addition of Poti helps, but the maturation of guys like Mike Green and Shaone Morrisonn is just as big.
--John Erskine actually looked like he belonged in the NHL. Much better than I remember him last year.
--Tomas Fleischmann is on the top line with AO and the immensely huge Viktor Kozlov. It's not going to work. 'Flash' couldn't keep up at all with the two Russians and didn't look like he belonged on a NHL top line. This was just one game, but he didn't create much and bungled several chances horribly.
--Rookie Niklas Backstrom is definitely more of a Jordan Staal type teenager rather than a more explosive guy like Malkin or Ovechkin. Backstrom didn't stand out that much and was pretty quiet. It's tough to be so young and in the NHL, but Backstrom doesn't look like he doesn't belong. He's just not an impact player. Yet.
--Eric Staal was almost invisible. The night before he look invincible Pittsburgh. Giving a little more credence to a little early fatigue for Carolina.
--Olie was solid. The Caps went into a defensive shell in the 3rd and he was called on to make some big, but not impossible saves. And he did.
--The new HD scoreboard is absolutely amazing. Words can't define how beautiful or clear it is.
--Attendance wise the crowd was strong. Loud too. There were still many, many empty seats (especially in the 200 section), but a lot of people already had the new red, white and blue jerseys.
Me and my buddy (a diehard Caps fan) often joke going to games at Verizon Center because you will see the most random jerseys of teams not even playing (Detroit, Philly, Toronto, Vancouver, Anaheim, etc, etc). Saturday night was the first time I didn't see this happen. There were a handful of Canes fans--but not really even that many. The overwhelming majority seemed, like their Caps, to be dressed in red that night. It was kind of refreshing to see.
It will be interesting to see if this scenario repeats itself in less than two weeks when the Penguins come to town on a Saturday night....I'm guessing probably not.
While I'm not going to hint at the playoffs, or an undefeated season like some tongue-in-cheek bloggers, the Caps were good. They were big. They hit. They did excellent in puck possession and carried the play.
2 games doesn't and 82 game season make. Certainly it's nice to get off to a good start, but not everything. The Caps were the better team tonight, but it'll be interesting to see how they fare over a long stretch of the season. Like I said in my season preview, I see them on the playoff bubble. Nights like this will help.