The Capitals opened up the 2015-16 NHL season with a solid 5-3 win against the New Jersey Devils last Saturday, and then followed it up with an ugly shutout loss to the San Jose Sharks 5-0 on Tuesday night. The Capitals definitely want to improve on their .500 start, but this next contest will be a huge challenge.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks are in town and they are off to a decent start to this new campaign. The champ is here, so the Capitals need to put a championship-worthy effort on the ice for their next game in order to obtain the two points up for grabs.
Were you there at Nationals Park for the 2015 Winter Classic? It was a fantastic outdoor event and an experience I will never forget. This is the last time the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals shared the same ice. The Capitals defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 at Nationals Park.
This is the first of two meetings between the Blackhawks and Capitals in 2015-16. The two inter-conference clubs will not see each other again until February 28 in Chicago.
SIZING UP THE OPPONENT: CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
With three Stanley Cups in the past six seasons, some would argue that the Blackhawks have earned a dynasty. The Blackhawks have been the gold standard around the NHL for a little bit of time now, and there is probably no reason why they should not be a favorite again this year.
Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville is one of the best hockey coaches in history. He has won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, and he has over 700 wins in his NHL coaching career. There are not many men that have accomplished what Joel Quenneville has around the NHL.
The Blackhawks, led by Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, have a little bit of a different look this year. They had to make some adjustments to their roster after their Cup run due to cap constraints, but this club is still very capable and should make some noise this spring. Gone from the Blackhawks are players like Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, and Brandon Saad, but the Hawks re-tooled with some familiar names like Artem Anisimov and Trevor Daley during the offseason.
WAVE TO THE GOOD GUYS: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The biggest story out of the Capitals camp is Alex Ovechkin’s absence from the San Jose game on Tuesday night. Apparently Alex set his alarm clock wrong, overslept, and missed the morning skate. Because he missed the morning skate, it was the team’s decision to have him sit out for the San Jose game.
Everyone is human, and everybody makes mistakes. I am fine with the team’s decision involving Alex. Barry Trotz has preached about accountability since Day 1 and all players need to be held responsible when they mess up and make mistakes.
With “Alarmgate” behind us now, Alex should be good to go for the Chicago game on Thursday night.
The Capitals got off to a slow start to the San Jose game, allowing the Sharks to get three first period powerplays and 17 shots on goal in the frame. The Sharks would add two more goals in the second period and stretched their lead to 3-0, and then this little incident happened that everyone is talking about:
Referees Tim Peel and TJ Luxmore were brutal all night in the Caps/Sharks contest, but it is amazing how awful the new NHL Coaches’ Challenge appeared last night. I am not sure where they located Jay Beagle’s “interference” with Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, but this overturned goal was a bit of a backbreaker for the Caps. It killed any momentum the Capitals could have mounted for a possible comeback in this game.
While the Capitals played a pretty bad game against San Jose, there is some good news out of Capitals camp. Centre Nicklas Backstrom has been cleared for contact, although he is still not scheduled to play against Chicago. Backstrom is inching closer to his return, so this is exciting news for the Capitals.
Ryan Garbutt – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Teuvo Teravainen – Viktor Tikhonov
Andrew Desjardins – Marcus Kruger – Andrew Shaw
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Trevor Daley – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor van Reimsdyk – David Rundblad
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Andre Burakovsky – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Stanislav Galiev
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov – Nate Schmidt
Blackhawks – Artemi Panarin: He is one of the newest Blackhawks that is unfamiliar to most people. The 23-year old Russian was signed by the Blackhawks as a free agent back in May. He has spent the past few seasons playing with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. He has put up some points in his first few games as a member of the Blackhawks, and he has shown some good chemistry with his superstar linemate Patrick Kane.
Capitals – Jason Chimera: He is off to a strong start for the Washington Capitals in 2015-16. Despite recording no points in the Sharks game, Chimera was all over the ice making his presence known. He did have 6 shots on goal and was one of the Capitals strongest skaters. The 36-year old Edmonton native has shown no signs of slowing down as he still shows tremendous speed on the ice.
By George Foussekis