After looking like the pre-Hanson brothers Chiefs from Slapshot in their first four games, the Capitals finally started to show that they have what it takes to compete in their last two contests. The struggling Alex Ovechkin managed to get on the score sheet last Sunday against the Sabres, and looked much more like himself on Tuesday against the Senators.
Getting Ovi the puck where he’s comfortable, on the left wing behind the faceoff circle, will be one of the keys to defeating the Maple Leafs tonight. When he’s on, he’s one of the biggest threats in the National Hockey League, and that will open up some chances for linemates Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
One option for coach Adam Oates to consider would be reuniting Ovechkin with former linemate Nikolas Backstrom. Backstrom has been a nonfactor through the first six games, and adding a threat like Ovechkin to his line may be exactly what he needs. And that goes both ways; when Backstrom is on his game, he’s a much better offensive center than Jay Beagle, and the Capitals need to give Ovechkin someone who can finish on a good pass. Since he became captain, Ovechkin has upped his passing game trememdously, but Beagle and Joey Crabb have not been able to put the pucks in the net. Backstrom’s a better finisher, so giving the Caps their first line from last season may be exactly what they need.
But one thing’s for sure, and that is the time of a hockey game. It’s 60 minutes, but the Caps forgot that on Tuesday against the Senators. After a dominant first period, the Caps strayed from what gave them so much success. The second period game plan saw the Capitals taking several shots from the blue line, most of which stood no chance of touching the twine. They didn’t make the Senators work, which allowed them to rest and take advantage of the tired Capitals in the third period.
The Caps need to put forth 100-percent for all 60 minutes, and do all the little things; be aware of your stick and don’t commit stupid penalties, finish your checks, put the puck in the net when there’s a wide-open shot, execute. The Maple Leafs are not a team to take lightly this season, and the Capitals will need to play at least as well as they did in Buffalo to walk out with a win.