A Changing Storyline, Or More of the Same?

For only 18 games into the season, the Capitals have managed enough turnarounds and contradictions to rival the drama you’d get watching The Bachelor. (Before you ask, my roommates watch it. I just happen to be in the room.)

The team’s consecutive two wins have the locker room in a lighter mood. Transitioning from writing about a team that doesn’t win to a team that wins sometimes begets a new question: will there come another transition, from a team that wins sometimes to a team that wins most of that time? Is this roster built for that? Or, in a few games, will I go back to writing about how too many penalties are suffocating the team, will they ever learn, and possibly investing more time in researching the promising career of Seth Jones?

I’m already having fun looking at how the storylines have changed from the beginning of the season till now.

Then: The Capitals’ special teams are bad.

Now: Their power play is good—2nd in the league good.

Then: Their goaltending needs to be better.

Now: Their goaltending is better.

Sometime before the Capitals’ 3-0 win Tuesday against Carolina: The Capitals miss Bruce Boudreau and Alexander Semin.

After Tuesday’s win: The Capitals actually don’t need Semin.

The never-ending storyline: Alex Ovechkin is in decline. Alex Ovechkin is back. Alex Ovechkin walks away from a game following his hat-trick magic with fewer shots on goal than Joel Ward.  So is he in decline or back? It’s … an enigma (sorry, couldn’t resist).

OK, maybe these are slight oversimplifications. At one point in the season, the Capitals had nowhere to go but up. It makes sense that time would help the Capitals’ power play, and, while the Capitals may not need Semin specifically, someone equal to his talent level in a top-six forward position certainly wouldn’t hurt the roster.

Speaking of this roster, it still has holes. But it seems from what I’ve heard and read in media coverage  that Oates’ system is well suited to cover a multitude of roster sins.  It’s like the New York Yankees going nameless on the back of their jerseys—the system and team is collectively more important than the individual’s particular skills.  The Capitals finally played well enough over the past two wins for me to begin seeing how that looks in reality, not just in theory.

What’s more, the players appear to like the system.  They deserve credit for the improvements they’ve made so far. As an outsider, it’s hard to know how much stock to put in a team meeting and a team dinner, but it certainly seemed to help the Capitals.

But it’s a much longer road to the postseason, and faith that you can make a decent showing is going to require winning against teams like Pittsburgh and Boston.

And when the most prevailing sentiment among your fan base is heartbreak, you’re going to have to work extra hard if you want to convince them something about this year is any different.


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8 Responses to A Changing Storyline, Or More of the Same?

  1. Todd says:

    Back to where we were before the Rangers game on 2/17. Win, and they’re two points out of the playoffs.

    Makes you wonder what the “break up the team / fire the coach” crowd is thinking now…

  2. Patrick says:

    I for one am just happy to see the team play an up-tempo, energetic style of hockey. The game is much more exciting to watch when our team looks like they are trying to challenge the opposition at every turn. It is easy to understand why the team would enjoy this system more than last years’ “defense first, wait for a mistake” style. I definitely prefer them forcing the other team to make mistakes in all zones, and jumping all over them. It is much more aggressive and thrilling. Occasionally it leaves our goaltenders in a scramble mode, but it makes for a much more exciting game. I am a believer.
    Lets Go Caps!!

  3. OrderedChaos says:

    Todd, I didn’t hear any legitimate “Fire the coach” requests… the Caps have a new coach (again) yet with no preseason and no room for error. I think we won’t see Oates running things how he wants to until next season.

  4. kab says:

    you are certainly right when you say the caps still have serious gaps in their lineup and orderedchaos is right as he speaks of next season. yes they looked good against a se division team missing some key players , but hockey is a brutal sport and staying healthy is rare. oatse’s system is fun to watch and if it keeps our local cossak happy ted is all in. I for one enjoyed the win last night and it was even better jhonny e made a liar out of me. tonights game is the second in 24 hours and against a team outside the southeast. does the pendulum swing back the other way I don’t know but it beats watching the bachelor( just barely though)

  5. Patrick says:

    Ouch, we looked disjointed vs Flyers. Caps need to step this stuff up BIGTIME when they arrive in the ‘Peg. 60 minutes of solid hockey or they will get ran into the ground against the whirlwind that the Jets bring.
    All of Manitoba is a deafening roar from the warmies until the bar closes, and then the after-parties!! Here’s hoping that I’m the last one grinning at six in the morning!


  6. gs12 says:

    Your article awhile back on ‘crisis of management’ is exactly what ails the team. You noted that there were only 3 legit top fwds out of the top 6. The difference i see, when they are winning, is a commitment to their own end and goaltending. They can/will stay with teams, despite the lack of legit fwds, because they have good 3rd and 4th lines. If Holtby can stay strong, they should be in the mix in the end. I hope;-)

  7. Patrick says:


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