Recap: Thrashers 4, Caps 2

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 08: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals skates by as Andrew Ladd #16 and Bryan Little #10 of the Atlanta Thrashers celebrate Ladd's goal at Philips Arena on October 8, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

[AP Recap - Game Summary - Event Summary]

The journey to redemption has to begin with a single step. Unfortunately for the Capitals, that first step was more like a stumble, as they kicked off the 2010-11 season with a somewhat inauspicious start. Sixty minutes into the regular season it appeared as if, for now at least, the Caps had yet to really find their groove - or really address any of the issues that plagued them last year.

And yet it is just sixty minutes, just one game down with eighty-one left to find that groove, address those issues and establish themselves as one of the League's elite once more.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • First and foremost, our thoughts are with Ondrej Pavelec tonight after the young goalie bizarrely collapsed early in the game and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher after lying motionless on the ice for almost ten minutes. Good news out of Atlanta, though: Pavelec is reportedly alert and in stable condition (and even asked what the score was), but will remain at the hospital overnight for observation. Get well soon, Ondrej.
  • Tomas Fleischmann had, er, let's just call it an "eventful" evening. Flash did well in the faceoff circle, winning nine of his fifteen draws, and made a beautiful pass to set up Brooks Laich's tap-in. However, he also seemed unable to get through the Atlanta defenders on multiple tries and, most memorably, flubbed the puck in his own zone - right to the stick of an attacking Thrasher, which turned into the tying goal by Evander Kane.
  • Most people probably wouldn't have predicted that of all the guys in the lineup, Alexander Semin would be the most focused and the most effective (relatively speaking). And yet Semin really was one of the best Caps on the ice for most of the night, despite only registering one shot on goal (and having a few stretches of Semin-esque play in between). Whether that's more of a compliment for #28 or a criticism of the team as a whole...well, you be the judge.
  • You can also be the judge on the penalty shot awarded to the Thrashers late in the second. Did Mike Green cover the puck in the crease or just swipe it out of the crease with his hand? 
  • The Caps may have given up four goals, but it'd be pretty tough to pin this loss on Michal Neuvirth. If anything, it ended up as close as it did thanks to the young goaltender, who came up big when the Caps needed him to and was often the victim of poor defensive coverage in front of him. 
  • Aside from a few flashes of brilliance, including the second goal off a beautiful Alex Ovechkin pass, the top line was at times invisible, at times ineffective and at times a defensive liability, as in the case of Atlanta's second goal. Ovechkin in particular should be called on the carpet for this one - the team needed their captain to lead by example, and for the most part he just didn't.
  • It wasn't the flashiest of premieres for Marcus Johansson, and at times he seemed to blend in with the sludge that was the Caps' performance tonight, but he never really looked out of place, either. And what a sweet, sweet pass to set up a Chimera scoring chance early in the game.
  • Best defenseman on the ice? John Erskine. That's not saying much, and he wasn't spectacular in his own right, but it was at least nice to see him stick up for Neuvirth - twice - and add a little energy and physicality to a lineup severely lacking in both. Of course, hits from behind on Ovechkin and Fleischmann both went unnoticed by big #4, so...
  • Stats can sometimes be a good measure of what happened in a game. Other times? They lie. Case in point: Alex Ovechkin finished the night with eight shots on goal, Evander Kane finished with seven, and yet Kane was clearly a difference-maker tonight. El Capitan...not so much.
  • Good news: the penalty kill was a perfect three-for-three. Bad news: the power play has now connected exactly one time since April 6. 
If you're panicking because of one lackluster game after a week off and with the rust of summer still somewhat fresh, well...you're probably in the wrong business. There were negatives - a sluggish overall performance, an ineffective power play, a sleepy-looking captain and a fairly abysmal first outing by Flash as second-line center. There were positives - Semin looking focused, penalty kill looking aggressive(ish), Neuvirth looking steady.

But less important are the things that were. What's important is what lies ahead, and that's a home opener tomorrow night in front of an assuredly more raucous crowd. And there are eighty-one more games, including five more chances to get revenge on a renovated Atlanta team. 

There's only one direction to go from here, and that's up. After all, it didn't work out so well for the Caps to play what was arguably their best game on opening night last year...right?

Game highlights:

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