The Washington Capitals paid a long overdue visit to Dallas to face a team they weren't too familiar with based on recent history. The re-tooled Stars had a busy off-season, snagging Lindy Ruff as their new coach, and adding former Bruins Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin in their push to get back to the playoffs. The new faces had no problem reliving the Stars historical home dominance over the Caps, taking a 2-1 victory. The Caps did, however, make the home team sweat it out at the end, with a 6-on-4 opportunity to close out the last 35 seconds. Alas, the Caps could not tie the game and now fall to 1-2 on the season, all in games against Western Conference opponents.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Caps power play came through yet again, with Alex Ovechkin notching his fourth of the year on a beautiful feed from Mike Green a mere 4:26 into the game.
- Speaking of Ovi, he has 34 goals in his last 41 regular season games. That’s a 68 goal pace!
- Where was John Erskine on Dallas’s first period response to Ovechkin's PP goal, an Eric Cole tally? Answer: not where he should have been. He was also charged with a penalty that period, and he botched a 2-on-1 when he left the penalty box, which gave the Stars a semi-breakaway. End the experiment…Erskine is a fish out of water as the Caps fourth defenseman.
- Interesting no call on Nick Backstrom’s waived off goal in the second period. If it’s a cross-check or interference, call a penalty; if it’s incidental (because Backstrom was chasing the puck) then it’s a goal. But the refs chose to kick the can down the road. It was ruled no goal and no penalty, still an unfavorable outcome for the red, white and blue, but also a cop out for the black-and-white stripes.
- The early season stats may not bear this out – Mike Green is, after all a -4 on the season - but there is a noticeable difference in the capabilities of the Caps top three defensemen (Green, Karl Alzner, John Carlson) and the Caps bottom three defensemen (Erskine, Steve Oleksy, Connor Carrick). It is abundantly evident that the Caps need to upgrade the defense if they want to be a contender in the Eastern Conference (or Wales Conference, or whatever it’s called now.)
- Martin Erat continued his stint as a fourth liner. For those that believe he could be trade bait for a potential defensive upgrade (see prior bullet), Erat is going to have to be given top-6 time to goose up his trade value. Playing 8:27 with Jay Beagle as his center isn’t maximizing his value.
- Braden Holtby had a good game, making 19 of 21 saves and letting in no bad goals. This is the type of performance the Caps need Holtby to consistently provide.
- One negative theme throughout this short season is how poorly the team has played at evens. Today they were –2, making them –8 on the season. In three games.
- From a shots perspective at evens the story is a bit better, as they tied the Stars in shots with 20 apiece. Eventually, things will turn around, right?
- Give credit to the Stars, they took advantage of the Caps defensive shortcomings, line-matched well and stayed out of the box. Well coached game from that old nemesis of ours, Lindy Ruff.
- With the exception of Mikhail Grabovski, Joel Ward and the rest of the bottom 9 forwards played like they were stuck in a bathroom. Through three games, the second, third and fourth lines have registered zippo offensively. Play better, boys.
Folks can talk about the torrid starts for Ovechkin and Grabovski. Or they can talk about the world-class power play. But the biggest takeaway from the first three games of the season is not positive: the Caps are being outplayed at even strength and are -8 in goal differential on the season. They’ll have five days off before their next contest against the Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s hope they start to figure some of this out.