Every year since 2000, the Capitals have carried their home opener with a victory. Every year until 2013. The Capitals looked ragged and rusty on Tuesday night against the Jets of Winnipeg, and showed that a team that’s only been together a week is going to have some weaknesses that have yet to be purged by the fire of training and hard work.
In a lockout-shortened season, with a new head coach, and a whole new system, the Capitals looked more like a practice squad on Tuesday against the Jets. With two days to recover after a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on Sunday, the Caps had hoped to rebound better. The team looked listless and lost at times, and at least one forward found his playing time limited in the face of criticism from his coach: “I didn’t think he was skating.”
It’s a difficult position to be in, with a drastically shorter run-up to the season than in past years, but the Capitals will have to rally to put themselves together ahead of the rest of the short season. It’s one thing to drop a couple to start an 82-game season, but with just 46 games left, it’s dropping a couple mid-season and looking rusty.
The veteran presence on the DC lines will have to show some spark in the coming games if the Caps will want to succeed this season. There’s something missing, and while conditioning seems part of it, these are professional athletes and conditioning ought to be their bread and butter. At some point, it has to come down to chemistry, and Adam Oates has to show us: is he the master alchemist? Can he make sense of his talent and build it into a cohesive whole? Those are hard questions in a short season, and the Caps appear to be stunted by the short run-up to the season.
Also, before you point to the net as the problem here, as much as Holtby has appeared the human sieve, if you’re not even going to try to stop the cross into the slot, you really can’t blame the goalie. Look for Neuvy to get some playing time soon, but there is much to be desired from the blue line boys in the early offing.