Hawked over

The lineup, last night, was a little bit weird to start the Caps/Hawks game. Fehr was third center, with Ward and Chimmer on his wings. Erat was on the fourth line, providing stability for Latta and Wilson. That seems nearly criminal mismanagement for a $4.5M player. Carrick also got a jersey, although that might have been due largely to him being from Chicago.

Despite that, I think, overall, the game went pretty well. It certainly didn't start out all that well, with Bollig scoring four minutes in, right after a Caps penalty had expired. And things didn't really improve after that (outside of one nice passing play culminating in OV just missing the net), until Bollig got called for roughing, six minutes later. The power play went pretty well, moving the puck around until Grabo managed to shovel the puck across the crease to OV for a quick deposit into the top of the net.

Despite Chicago restoring its lead thirty seconds later, the rest of the period was generally going the Caps way. In fact, they ended up outshooting Chicago 13-8 in the period. That's a pretty good formula for winning, in the long run.

And things went very, very solidly the Caps way for the first six or seven minutes of the second. They kept the play at the right end of the ice for nearly that entire span, although they were not rewarded for it. Fehr's line, in particular, looked very good over that span, generating a number of good chances. Things started going downhill after that, although Ward did manage to spring Grabo and Chimmer for a 2-on-1 halfway through the period.

I must admit, watching that play develop, at no point did I think Grabo was going to pass. So I was pleased when he buried it short side to tie it up again.

But, outside of that one play, things were going very solidly Chicago's way, and Carrick got caught with hooking a couple minutes later. They started very well on that power play, with several clears, but when Chicago made it into the zone, it took them very little time to find a very open Brent Seabrook for the score. I will say, though, that I was a little disappointed with Holtby on this goal, as Seabrook was at the top of the circle, and there was no one in the way.

While that was the only other goal allowed, the last five minutes of the period were very bad for the Caps. For the period, shots were 18-6 home team, and two of those shots were clean breakaways (though Holtby made nice stops on both).

Things really went a bit wild in the third, with things just going back and forth, and nobody sustaining pressure for long periods of time.

The Caps power play really hit high gear early on, with Grabo deflecting Green shots twice in the first six minutes to finally give the Caps a lead (the first was initially credited to Green, and I must admit to not being able to see the deflection even on replay).

But things were certainly looking pretty good at that point, even after Saad tied things up again a couple minutes later on a nicely-played give-and-go.

Six minutes later, though, things took a sharp turn for the worse, as Oduya put a slapshot past Holtby. On initial viewing, it looked like a very weak goal that trickled in off the edge of his catching glove. But it looks like it was deflected a little bit, and that might have put it enough lower to throw off Holtby.

That put the Caps into full-desperation mode, greatly aided by Sharp getting called for running over Holtby (on replay, looked like Sharp was trying to avoid Green, and went right over Holtby. Not sure what he was thinking, there. Or why he argued with the call). The Caps got the ensuing face-off, and put some nice pressure on until Nordstrom cleared the zone. Unfortunately for him, he cleared the other zone as well for a delay of game penalty to give the Caps a 5-on-3 for about 90 seconds.

At that point, the Caps really needed to a) shoot more and b) not collapse around the net. But the collapse allowed the defenders to cover more lanes, with the result that the Caps only got a couple of decent shots away. Those were very good chances, but Crawford managed to stop them.

And then, Hossa got the puck out, after Holtby had beed pulled. Green managed to catch him, and deflect the puck away, but it was judged a penalty shot infraction on an empty net. Can't say as I agree with the call, as Hossa went down tripping on Green's torso (so I don't know how you say that Hossa was past Green). But what Green hit the puck with to deflect it would determine whether it was a penalty at all, and I can't say as I could tell, watching.

Anyway, I wasn't terribly upset at how things played out. OV's line didn't look great, I thought. Just no defense there, and wasn't able to maintain possession. Also had the giveaway for one of the breakaways mentioned.

Grabo's line looked pretty good. They had a number of chances, and did a decent job disrupting Chicago.

Fehr's line actually looked very good. I was impressed with Fehr's defense, in particular, in the offensive and neutral zones. He intercepted a number of passes, and came close on several more. They also had a number of good scoring chances.

Erat looked good, when he was on, but that wasn't much. Wilson also looked good, but that was even rarer. Latta wasn't bad either, but he had even less time. Not sure what to make of all that. Definitely don't like Erat getting only nine minutes, although I can see why he's with Wilson and Latta. And I can't see why Wilson (or Latta, for that matter) were kept up, if they're going to get less than seven minutes a night. That just can't be good for their development.

On the defensive side, the top three looked as good as you'd expect (outside of Carlson's one really bad turnover that led to the second of those two breakaways. He actually looked excellent except for that one play). Erskine was definitely a mixed bag. He did a good job a couple times, taking Chicago's top forwards to the boards. But he also failed to get the puck to another player one time on the breakout, starting behind the net without pressure.

I can't say as I ever much noticed Hillen. He seemed to do decently. And Carrick? Well, it was not a good night for him. He had the hooking penalty, and the first and fourth goals were largely due to him failing to tie up the stick of the forward. Not the way he was hoping to start his NHL career, for sure.

On special teams, well, the power play was obviously fantastic. Who was that center that left in the offseason, again?

The penalty kill seemed pretty decent when I was watching, but one of four with eight shots allowed isn't terribly good. Certainly room for improvement, there.

So, the 6-4 final wasn't terribly good. At least one, and possibly two, weak goals isn't good either. But, as the first game of the season, and probably facing the best team in the league, I'm not terribly upset. There's certainly room for improvement, but there's reason to believe that they'll make that improvement.

The Corsi/Fenwick numbers for the game are pretty good, considering they were going up against one of the top-two or -three possession teams in the league. So that's very encouraging.

The one big hole that I'm seeing is fourth D (not that that wasn't predictable). Erskine isn't really up to the task, is paid like he is, and there's no cap room to seek a replacement later. On the offensive side, there's certainly reason to expect improvement, but I don't see where it comes from, defensively. Gonna have to hope, a lot, on this.

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