Craig Laughlin warned us early in the broadcast Wednesday night, after a road trip, teams sometimes have trouble adjusting to playing at home. It is pretty simple really. On the road, you literally live at the rink. You go to practice, have some meetings, go back to the hotel, rest and eat, and then head back to the rink for the game. There aren’t many distractions like appearances and interviews with local media outlets. After a quick but tough road trip, it makes sense that the first of a three game home stand was so up and down against the resurgent Toronto Maple Leafs.
Some post game thoughts and observations from the last week.
- On cue, Mathieu Perreault was reassigned to Hershey following his inconsistent play on the road. Unfortunately, despite the energy he does bring on occasion to the NHL lineup, Matty P. may be one of those guys that never makes the show full time.
- After about a month of regular season play, the Capitals offense is feast or famine with most of the gorging occurring in the second period. It is not surprising that most pucks are going in during the second 20 minutes. Anyone who has been following the team probably has a template for game notes now. “The Caps come out flying for the first 10 minutes or so. Then, there is a breakdown, yielding the first goal(s) against. The second period is very solid with lots of chances. More breakdowns in the third period.” The good thing is, pucks are starting to go in.
Alexander Semin is definitely playing like a contract year player. Despite his usual offensive zone, stick infractions, Semin is battling on the wall, throwing some sick sauce, and making plays only he can. I have always been critical of “the other Alex” but even I can admit, he is playing some inspired hockey.
- When the Caps do score goals like they did in Calgary and against the Leafs, they look to be developing a killer instinct. It seems like all four lines really pick up the pace after a couple goals.
- Jeff Schultz. Look, I know the guy put up great numbers last season and actually has decent numbers to start this season. However, I usually judge a guy by how he looks on the ice. I look for signs of compete level and how a player uses their strengths. All of Schultz’s weaknesses were on display against a very tough Toronto Maple Leafs squad. He was consistently beaten down low and along the boards. Schultz had a terrible time cleaning guys out in front of the Capitals’ net. I know, it sounds like I am focusing on one game. However, the dozens of regular readers I have know, I have always questioned why such a big player like Schultz, cannot use his size to his advantage.
- I am sort of disappointed in DJ King. It seems like his M.O. is to have pointless, boring fights with guys. It doesn’t seem like there is much emotion there or that there is a statement being made when he drops the mitts other than, “I’m the fighter on this team.”
- Everyone take note of where Ovi blasted his two goals from, in Calgary. Right handed shooters, sitting just inside the left wing circle, are lethal on the power play in today’s NHL (see, Steven Stamkos).
This weekend’s contests against the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers represent significant challenges to the Caps as they attempt to carry over the offensive success from the last week. Both teams are tight checking, supported by hot goaltending.