The Washington Capitals have gotten off to a fast 4-0 start to the 2011-12 season. Two of these wins have been against divisional opponents in Carolina and Tampa Bay, and one has come against the arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
While this kind of start is not surprising, it has brought a few questions to Washington as the Capitals press forward in this campaign.
Alex Ovechkin only has two points early on and it was discussed a bit today as to how he would like to get on the scoresheet more like seasons past.
Also, the team has given up a good number of goals to start the season—especially when their goaltending was tipped to have improved during the offseason.
However, one improvement is the fact that the Capitals have received a good amount of secondary scoring from the likes of Jason Chimera and Dennis Wideman. Although secondary scoring is something the Caps have needed in recent seasons, there are a few things they need to improve on for long-term, sustained success this season.
Three of the four Capitals wins have come in overtime or the shootout this season.
While that adds up to eight points in the standings, it does not add up to a guaranteed first-place finish at the end of the season.
There have been stretches in all of these games where the Caps have looked inept for a period of five to 10 minutes or whole 20-minute segments at a time.
In the last four games, the Caps could have easily lost points—especially those in overtime. The Caps will need to clean up these parts of a game where they look exceptionally subpar and play complete games in order to defeat teams in regulation rather than the extra frame.
“The Great 8” has two points in the first four games of this season. In past seasons it has been extremely unusual to see Ovechkin anywhere but on top of the Caps scoring list.
On top of that, Ovechkin is currently wielding a minus-two rating—good enough to tie for last on the team.
It certainly looks like a slump for Ovie, but he will need to break out of it to avoid widespread criticism.
If this team is going to go places, they will need their prolific scorer to find the scoresheet much more often. While this may be a contradiction to the wish that the Caps need secondary scoring to succeed in the playoffs, they will also need Ovechkin to pot goals when times are tough and the rest of the team is struggling.
While this improved on paper in the offseason, there is no real show of improvement in regular-season play.
Michal Neuvirth is injured again which means it is time for Tomas Vokoun to show the Capitals coaching staff he can be the No. 1 on this squad—Vokoun took this opportunity and surrendered five goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning last week.
It is no doubt that the Capitals will need one strong goaltender at the end of the season to go into the playoffs and give them the backstop they need.
The Capitals are able to win games at times when five or six goals are surrendered, but it is never a sure thing, especially when playoff time comes around.
While this 4-0 start is very promising for the Caps for a variety of reasons—they are getting secondary scoring, the power play looks functional and role players are coming through, just to name three—the Caps do have room for improvement, and they will need to get better at these things to be successful once May rolls around.
The last thing DC fans want is another early playoff exit, and you cannot assume anything being undefeated at this point. Hopefully Ovechkin and the netminders can get rolling along with other members of the team to go on a lengthy winning streak.