Starting the season

Three games in, the Caps season can already be described as very up-and-down.  The first period of the season, against Montreal, was one of the better ones I've seen them play in the last several years.  In it, Burakovsky showed why he wasn't sent down (I was highly skeptical, at best, of this move, but he's looked very good so far).

The second period was discouraging, and you had to think the disallowed goal would give them some additional motivation, but the third period was really terrible.

They got really lucky with the second disallowed goal and with the other "goal" hitting the corner of the post (ironic that both of those were caused by Bourque (and f- that guy, anyway)), but still allowed a tying goal.

In the overtime, they actually looked quite good again (and with some interesting forward pairings.  Ward and Chimmer was a bit interesting, but Kuzya (who'd been stapled to the bench for most of the game) and... Brouwer? were an odd choice.  And it was a surprise to see Bura out, though he acquitted himself well), but not good enough to win the game.

The shootout seemed fairly desultory, with nobody doing anything terribly interesting, and it seemed pretty anticlimactic when Holtby allowed the final shot in.  Overall, a disappointing game, but one showing promise.

The second game, against the Bruins, did not feel like a good one at all.  But OV scored on the OV power play one-timer to give a lead.  A few minutes later, Alzner made a great pinch to keep the puck in, Backs won possession, and immediately hit OV cutting toward the net.  OV wristed the shot over Rask's shoulder to double the margin.

Possessionally, though, it was pretty terrible, and Holtby was called on to make a number of nice saves to preserve the lead.

The second period was more even, possessionally, although it felt like Boston had the better of it.  But the second power play unit chipped in halfway through, with Bura in MarJo's position, passing to Kuzya in Backstrom's, passing straight across to Green in OV's position for the one-timer score.  It should also be noted that Bura drew the penalty on this one.

The third period still went more Boston's way, possessionally, until the last five minutes or so, when they seemed to give up.

But Holtby continued to stand tall, especially being called on in PK situations, and kept the B's out of the net.  By the end, Boston had given up, and Ward got his first of the season (from Carlson and Bura) to complete the shutout.

All in all, not the way I'd draw it up, but it's hard to be upset with the result.

The third game, last night, was back at home against the Sharks.  The first period went about the way you'd expect, against a San Jose team that hadn't yet allowed a goal and got a little luck.  That helped push Holtby out less than ten minutes in, as he allowed three goals on seven shots.  Not his night.

Irwin had his first career multigoal game with the first two, and John Scott had his third career goal (in about 100 games, IIRC) for the third.

The Caps kept the Sharks out of the net the rest of the period, but I still waited well over an hour (maybe two) before turning the rest of the game on.  And that was after long debate.

The team justified my faith less than three minutes in, with a nine-second power play.  It was OV fooling the D, and passing to MarJo on the far doorstep for the tap-in, instead of taking his usual one-timer.  A very nicely-played power play, as all five players touched the puck in those nine seconds.

Two and a half minutes later (does this sound familiar, perchance?), Pavelski scored to restore the three-goal margin.

Playing against type, the Caps scored back one, and one-and-a-half, minutes later (Green and OV with the honors) to make it a close game again.  That was it for the scoring in the period, but the Caps continued to play hard and threaten.

Wingels extended the lead once more, only a minute and a half into the third, and it took the Caps a long time to come up with an answer.  That answer finally came from OV, on the power play, but was not one of his normal one-timer slapshots.  He go the puck in his normal position, and actually waited on something for a second or two.  But his wrister found the top corner, near side.

The building really went crazy a minute later, when Brouwer got the defender to trip, coming down the left side, then floated to the middle, waited for Niemi to go down, and found the top-right corner for the tie.

A minor penalty on Backstrom with just over a minute left provided some additional drama, but they weathered that storm, even into the overtime.  The Caps looked pretty good in the overtime, even getting the only shot on goal, but were unable to score, so things went into the shootout.

And let's just say that that did not go according to script, as all three Caps missed and Pavelski's score was the difference maker.

But really, it's hard to be upset with a shootout loss to the Sharks.  Especially a game that started so poorly.

So the Caps finished the trio with four points, which would have been a pretty optimistic prediction at the beginning.  They haven't looked great, or even consistently good, but they show a lot of promise.  Bura is more than justifying the staff's decision to keep him on the big team; MarJo is improving on the boards.  Fehr looks pretty good on the top line.  The Chimmer-Laich-Ward line hasn't done much, but we know what they can do (they'll turn it around; they've had some good chances).  Kuzya has looked good in pretty limited minutes (psst: he needs more ice time, and I think he'll get it).

O'Brien and Latta haven't looked bad.  In fact, I'm in favor of keeping Latta in the line-up when Beagle's healthy.

The power play looks like it hasn't been tinkered with (much; OV's getting less ice time, but that's probably to the good), and is getting a lot of shots.  No one has tried the "man on OV" yet; we'll see how things go when they do.

The penalty kill looks improved, though not as much as I'd hoped.  They are still allowing too many shots, but it's a lot less than last year.  Mostly, they need to work on clearing.  They've failed on too many clearing chances already.  That seems fluky; we'll hope that's true.

Given all the off-season turmoil, it's hard to be disappointed with where things stand.

The Devils are coming to town tomorrow, and they've been scoring this year.  So that should be quite a challenge.  The Panthers follow that, then it's time for a three game swing out north and west (Oilers, Flames, and Canucks, in order).  We'll have a much better handle on where the team is at the end of that.

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