Biggest Takeaways from Washington Capitals' Start to the 2013-14 Season
So far, the Washington Capitals' performances during the first week or so from the regular season have told us very little about what to expect from this team this season.
Some nights, Adam Oates' club has looked like a team ready to do battle with the league's best, as we saw against the Chicago Blackhawks on opening night.
During others, the Caps have looked like a team that's lacking confidence defensively, and that's been a big reason why Washington is 1-2 at this stage.
After the team's first three games of the regular season, here's a look at the biggest takeaways from D.C.'s start to the 2013-14 campaign.
Alex Ovechkin Is Still the Team's Engine
No, Ovechkin hasn't been dominant during 5-on-5 situations, but when the Capitals have been on the power play, the reigning Hart Trophy winner has been absolutely unstoppable.
With four goals and six points through three games, Ovechkin has showed the hockey world that his late-season resurgence in 2013 was no fluke, and that he's undoubtedly one of the game's most dangerous offensive weapons.
In particular, Ovechkin's ability to find open spaces in the opposing end of the ice has been evident, as he's capitalized on defensive lapses, and has been the team's most consistent threat offensively thus far.
It's absurd to think that he'll continue to score a goal every game, but it's very encouraging to see how much confidence Ovechkin's gained in the last nine months.
Don't Hand Braden Holtby the Permanent Starting Job Just Yet
Heading into the season, Braden Holtby was the overwhelming favorite to be the Capitals' No. 1 goaltender, as the young stopper's now been Washington's best option for the last two postseasons.
But Holtby's struggles during his first trio of outings have been obvious, as the 24-year-old currently has no wins on the season, despite getting three consecutive starts.
In the Caps' only victory to date, Holtby was yanked after giving up three first period goals, and Oates' boys only battled back once Michal Neuvirth had entered the game against Calgary.
For now, Holtby certainly retains his title as the team's starting goalie, but if he continues to let up goals in bunches, Neuvirth will get a long look for the job.
Mikhail Grabovski Is a Solid Replacement for Mike Ribeiro
Following Mike Ribeiro's decision to sign with Phoenix, the Capitals were officially left without an offensively gifted second line center.
Well, three games into his time with Washington, Mikhail Grabovski has been everything the Capitals could've hoped for, as the 29-year-old dangler has put up five points, including a stunning hat trick against the defending Cup champions.
Looking ahead, Grabovski's presence on the team's top power play unit appears to be critical to the Caps' success, because his ability to move the puck from down low back up to either Ovechkin or Mike Green, as well as create traffic in front, have both been integral components to the Caps' league-leading numbers with the man advantage.
In the short term, Grabovski, Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich have to get things going, because the Capitals need more than one line carrying the mail offensively.
Adam Oates Is Not a Fan of Martin Erat's
When the Caps dealt top prospect Filip Forsberg for two-way veteran winger Martin Erat last spring, the assumption was that the former Czech Olympian would be a fixture on Washington's top two lines, because George McPhee paid such a high price to acquire him.
But so far, Oates has displayed little confidence in the 32-year-old forward, who had scored an impressive 49-57 points in each of his last eight full seasons, as Erat's been buried on the fourth line.
With a cap hit of $4.5 million, Erat is simply too skilled, and more importantly, too expensive, to be averaging roughly eight minutes a night, and clearly, the former Predator is confused.
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out, but one has to think that the Caps will at least consider trying to move Erat if this trend continues, because there's no point in leaving him to toil alongside Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle.
If the Power Play Falters, so Too Does the Caps' Offense
As of now, only three teams have scored fewer even strength goals than the Caps, which is a troubling statistic for a club loaded with offensive weapons.
Yes, the power play, as previously mentioned, is on absolute fire, producing at an eye-popping 50 percent success rate, and has been responsible for six of the team's nine goals.
Unfortunately, it's very unrealistic to imagine a team scoring at that rate over a full season, especially given that the Caps' league-leading unit was finding the back of the net on 26.8% of its chances last year.
Going forward, the Capitals need to get more production out of their bottom-three lines, because otherwise, they'll be outscored every time Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Grabovski and Brouwer are lighting the lamp with the man advantage.