I haven't been finding much time lately to blog about the caps; I keep having other things to do when I finish watching the games. But I have been watching them.
Since my last post, in fact, I've watched most of every game except the Tampa one (they aren't playing on a glacier floating on the water, so I'm not adding Bay to their name). I missed chunks of the Panthers game due to power outages (four of them, in fact), and two chunks of the Montreal game. The first five minutes or so, I missed because of installing a UPS to prevent power outage problems, and the last period because of working on my theater (hoping to finish that tonight or tomorrow night).
But I have really liked what I've seen up to the Montreal game. They're still allowing the other team to score first too much, but not getting behind by multiple goals. The effort has been there consistently. And the results of the deadline trades are quite good.
I'm going to detour a little bit here, in fact, and talk about those acquisitions. Arnott has been great; he's been productive, and, anecdotally, seems to be helping the team motivation. Wideman's also been awesome; the trade for him seems like a steal, now. And I was worried that he would have a transition like Hannan's; thank goodness I was totally offbase about that concern. The two of them together have also been great for the power play. OV's getting a lot more room with those two at the points. Sturm hasn't really produced, but he's still been good in terms of generating chances. The production will come, I'm sure.
And further, I really liked the lines that Bruce put together with everyone. Well, until Arnott and Backstrom got hurt, anyway. Laich is not a top-line center. Heck, he isn't a second-line center.
Getting to Montreal, more specifically, the team looked really good. They were keeping the puck in the offensive zone, and keeping the pressure on Price. In fact, without an outstanding game by Price, the Caps win by five. Like last game, Holtby was good, but probably not as good as his save percentage would indicate. Laich, I thought, was merely ok, although that was a great move where he scored the goal. I think Chimmer should start being a healthy scratch, regularly; maybe call up Perreault to replace him. Perreault at least generates more chances. Of course, Fehr apparently hurting himself again in that game makes that a bit tougher.
MarJo continued to play like a top-line player. He's been good enough, of late, that last night seemed a bit like a coming-out party for him. His face-offs have been bad, though not disastrous, so that's a step in the right direction. But he's doing a much better job of using his speed, and distributing the puck. He's even looking better on the boards. In fact, my only two criticisms of his play of late are the face-offs (as I said, improving, but still needing quite a bit of work) and that he doesn't look to shoot if OV's on the ice (no doubt, OV has a better shot, so that's the percentage play, but he needs to shoot occasionally to keep the defense honest). Neither of those are major problems; I'm definitely looking forward to this kid being around for a while.
Moving on to the Detroit game, I didn't have a good feeling about that one even before it started. Against Detroit, in Detroit, and the tail end of back-to-back games. Hearing the scratches did not improve my leading impression. And my feelings were pretty much born out; the Caps were pretty seriously outplayed. In fact, they could have easily been shut out, if Howard had been on his game. The skaters outplayed the Caps that much. But, given the Caps situation (particularly injuries), and that they managed to keep the game close, I wasn't terribly upset. And thank goodness Neuvy was in goal; Holtby definitely needed the rest.
Tonight in NJ was kind of similar to the Detroit game, especially early on. The Caps were badly outplayed for much of the game, but managed to capitalize on their few chances. The third goal really took the wind out of the Devils' sails; I wouldn't go so far as to say they folded at that point, but they weren't far off. Neuvy had a fabulous game; without him being so sharp, the score could have easily been 3-0 in the other direction. Carlson and Knuble also had very good games, especially Carlson. Backstrom looked like he is still hurt, and shouldn't play the next game. He looked good, compared to an average NHL player, but way off his normal game. I applaud the decision to keep him on the second line for the game. It was weird, but the right decision.
Oh, and I almost forgot to note the irony with both Steckel and Arnott being held out of this game with injuries.
Other than that, not a whole lot to say. The team trajectory looks very good (other than this being a brutal road trip). The main concern, looking forward, is player health. Backstrom and Green, especially, need to be 100% for the playoffs, and should rest until they're completely healthy.