Five games into an 82-game season, there's not a lot that can be said with a ton of authority given the paucity of observation points. Rather, October for the NHL fan is more about previews; glimpses of where the season might be headed, be it for individual players, your favorite team, or the League.
Tonight the Capitals offered those of us clamoring for answers an at-times tantalizing look at just how good they could be if everything comes together, using their speed, skill, and even tenacious play to establish their dominance over another team that has also played pretty well in the early going. There's still a long, long way for this team to go, but at least tonight they looked like they were heading in the right direction.
Ten more notes on the game:
- As a general rule, I try to stay away from the off-ice side of things. Nonetheless, it was kind of nice to hear that Matt Bradley felt he owed Alexander Semin an apology after his offseason comments and that he felt Semin deserved to receive the apology in person - and, it's worth mentioning, it seemed a lot more in line with the personality Bradley showed Caps fans during his six seasons in Washington.
- Matt Hendricks' dogged pursuit of the puck in neutral zone while the Capitals were shorthanded after Roman Hamrlik's first period interference penalty was one of those plays that was both important and easy to miss. It may not have looked like all that much, but anyone who has played the game can tell you that seeing a teammate work like that serves as inspiration to everyone on the bench.
- Speaking of Hendricks, his little curl-and-drag move after coming out of the penalty box late in the second was one of those moments that reminds you that even NHL depth players are extraordinarily skilled - and that's part of what makes being a fan of this sport so much fun.
- The scouting report on Jacob Markstrom says shoot often and from anywhere. Which, without taking anything away from Marcus Johansson strong performance, is unlikely to change given the first goal surrendered tonight.
- It has been interesting to see Jason Chimera look so strong this season, creating on offense, hitting with authority, and using his speed to harangue opponents in all three ends after how lost he looked for a lot of last year. The question is: Has Chimera completely bounced back, or is this a result of him being put in the perfect position to succeed as a complimentary player on a solid checking line?
- While fully acknowledging that he's carrying an unsustainably high shooting percentage, is at an age when develop can be hard to pin down, was a highly regarded prospect, and has been getting a little lucky, it's getting awfully hard to argue message-sending benching didn't have a pretty significant positive influence.
- Roman Hamrlik has not only looked mediocre so far this year, often he has looked like an outright liability. It's tempting to say that the system in Montreal must have hid him, but it's hard to believe any system could hide play like this.
- I generally pride myself on writing thoughtful, insightful, analytics-driven pieces on hockey. That said, my reaction to third-period goal was a simple, "Holy s---. That was impressive." And I can't of any better way to describe the play.
- And speaking Semin, as nice as his goal was, his backcheck on Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski just a few moments earlier was in the same league - and probably more important for a number of reasons.
- A year ago, Boudreau made a conscious effort to try to get Alex Ovechkin away from not-quite-perennial-Norris-
finalist Mike Weaver. Tonight Ovechkin was limited to a secondary assist and just two shots on goal. Sometimes effectiveness is more about the way two guys' playing styles contrast one another and less about pure talent, and meanwhile we're left waiting for Ovie's 2011 breakout game.
Tonight's result is certainly encouraging, especially right before a measuring stick game in Philly, and here's hoping it was more about the team continuing to come together and less about the quality of their opponent.