I am not a hockey expert, I’m just a fan. I’m not even gonna pretend I am an expert by researching/reciting stats or quoting knowledgeable authorities. (You really didn’t expect me to, did you?) This is going to be an “emotional” post, not a “clinical” one. This one comes from the heart. So, here it is; while I eagerly anticipate every Caps game; the game coming up on Thursday against the Penguins is the one I am really looking forward to the most.
In my mind, all the changes to the Capitals that have been made since last season were made for playing against this one team. A team we haven’t played since last spring. Forget the Sharks, forget the Devils, forget the Flyers. Ok, yes, all of them are hard to forget, but my point here is this: I believe the current team roster was built to play the Penguins. Our current SYSTEM was built to beat the Penguins SYSTEM. The Penguins are the adversary that sticks in our collective craw the most.
Today’s Caps team has taken a while to build; with many adjustments along the way. We can’t develop the team to suit all styles, we have to focus on what we think is going to be needed for the big picture. The Caps are looking towards getting through the playoffs and ultimately on to the Stanley Cup. That
most likely may include playing the Penguins, so maybe the focus is there. Don’t think we need to worry about meeting them post season? I hope you are right, but I’m not taking any bets on it right now. The Penguins don’t look like they are going to crumble and fall apart any time soon, as much as I would like to hope otherwise.
Consider all the changes the Caps have made since the last season. New acquisitions, trades and players coming up from Hershey, coaching changes, line changes, the whole 9 yards, (or should I say 200 ft?). Don’t kid yourself, our guys are not resting on their laurels. We’ve said buh bye to Johnny, Clark, Juice, and at long last; buh bye to Nyls. We said a hearty hello to Knuble, B-Mo and Chimera. Our team’s coaching staff welcomed Bob Woods and Arturs Irbe into the fold. We’ve had players switch between offense and defense, and from wing to center. Bruce is constantly making line combination changes, often from shift to shift. We’ve seen Varly take over from Theo, and Neuvy take over for Varly. I could go on and on about what has changed with this team, but hopefully you get my point.
The Capitals have developed a certain style of play (for the most part), a style that is not always competitively compatible with other teams. But, there are some teams that fall apart against our run and gun game. It is this basic style of game with this current base roster of players that has been getting tweaked for months now. And, the Caps may not be done yet. The trade deadline is not over and we may now have enough breathing room if a player that suits our needs and fits our style becomes available.
Yes, we all want to win against every team, but that is not possible and not realistic. You might be thinking that Ovi needs to score more. As far as I’m concerned, as long as Ovi scores enough to get us to the post season and then scores big time when we get there, I’m ok with him not making 50 in 50 or winning another Hart. He’s probably ok with that too if it means he finally gets his hands on the Stanley Cup. We also need Varly to get better and get back on the ice. (And it wouldn’t hurt if Theo kept his head on straight and played consistently. Let’s face it, he’s no Kolzig, or even Huet for that matter, but, we have seen the times when he is out there putting everything he has into the game for a win. It actually can be done.) We need players drawing penalties and making power play goals, not sitting in the sin bin cooling their heels. We need the defense protecting our net, we need the offense crashing their net. We need to scrap pretty displays of passing that don’t result in goals. But, we are getting there. When the stars align and the system works, our team and its victories are a joy to behold.
Never forget that winning the Stanley Cup is THE objective for our team. It is also THE objective for EVERY NHL team, so don’t think the Penguins aren’t looking for a repeat of last year. Who did they have to get past to get there? Who will we probably have to get past to get there? So is the upcoming game against the Penguins really all that I think it’s going to be? I’m counting on it! Win or lose, it should be exciting, entertaining, and one we may watch holding our breath until we turn