The Washington Capitals are off to a hot start for the 2009-2010 NHL season.
Traditionally, the Caps have been slow-starters, waiting until December (or later) to make a run up the standings. This season, they have started 13-4-4, and are currently sitting atop the Eastern conference standings (though New Jersey and Buffalo have games in hand).
The Capitals seem to have all the talent anyone could want, but sometimes they do not know what to do with it. They have had winning streaks of two, four, and six games and have had losing streaks of one, three, and four games (with four losses total in OT or shootout).
Washington is the only team this season to have had the lead in every game played. The only game that they seemed to concede was the recent loss to New Jersey, which has been their only loss by more than one goal.
Having led every game also means that they have let opponents back in the game more than a few times. The Capitals need to find consistency on the defensive end to go with their NHL-leading goal scoring.
Alexander Ovechkin is tied for the league lead with 15 goals, though he has only played 15 games (he recently missed six games with injury). He is on pace for over 70 markers this season, and can hopefully stay injury-free.
Tomas Fleischmann returned from missing the first 11 games of the season, and has since totaled 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in those next ten games. He has been a force with the puck, and is averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per night.
Mike Green has played 20 games so far, and has 20 points. Very few NHL defensemen average a point per game. Stunningly, this season Green is doing damage through assists (he has 17 to date). His defensive play has been suspect at times, but Green is still contributing over 24 minutes of ice time and good offensive numbers.
The enigma that is Alexander Semin is still putting up decent offensive numbers, though he is taking too many offensive zone (or lazy) penalties, and making too many high-risk attempts. He is surely a weapon, but one that the Capitals need to control.
Mike Knuble is unfortunately sidelined with a broken finger, and will miss at least the next three weeks. Prior to the injury "Knubes" was playing his big-body role perfectly. Adding five goals, ten assists, and putting up power play minutes in front, Knuble had been the force the Capitals desperately needed to make room for snipers Ovechkin and Semin.
Brendan Morrison was mostly discarded by Anaheim due to recurring injury issues. However he has been the crafty pivot the Capitals hoped needed on the second line. Working with gritty forwards like Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann, "B-Mo" has added six goals, and ten assists, and is making an impact on every game with his solid two-way play.
Mathieu Perreault had played in seven games so far this season, as an injury-replacement. Generously listed at 5'-10" (he's really 5'-7"), Perreault has been a spark plug for the Capitals. He has contributed a few timely goals, some pretty assists, and has been able to control the puck despite his smallish size. Most fans would agree that Perreault deserves a shot at staying in Washington.
Jose Theodore is the goalie we've all come to know and hate. One side of him is the goalie who gives up three or more goals and looks lost manning the net, and that causes fans fits with his shaky play. On other occasions this season, Jose Theodore has looked like the guy from 2000, when he was a stud in goal. Is he capable of backstopping the Capitals in the playoffs? At this point, who knows?
Will the real Semyon Varlamov please stand up? Playoff hero, seriously athletic netminder, young goalie with potential, he is all of those things. Even though his win-loss record is stellar in his young career, we have seen two faces of "Varly." He has all the moves and abilities to be the number one for the Capitals, but we will have to be patient with his development.
Bruce Boudreau knows that this team has the potential to win a conference, or a Presidents Trophy. It is a long season and he needs to keep the Capitals calm, and trying to play smart, dedicated hockey.
Hopefully, they can get 100 percent healthy, and continue to get production from the role guys like Matt Bradley, Tomas Fleischmann, and Brendan Morrison.
The Capitals need to commit to better defense, especially from the large guys like Jeff Schultz, Shaone Morrisonn, and John Erskine.
Washington also need to learn from the first quarter of the season, and stay out of penalty troubles and avoid third period collapses. Start to use the killer instinct and put teams away.
The DC fans are out in force (finally), and we are with you. Feed off of that and "Rock the Red."
As always, enjoy the game!