The Washington Capitals Fan Club held their first meeting of the 2017-18 season tonight prior to the team’s contest against the Florida Panthers. Special guests Joe Beninati and Crain Laughlin, play-by-play and color commentator, respectively, for NBC Sports Washington. They touched on multiple topics, including rule changes, the most impressive new Caps, and the Caps’ power play.
The duo, always fan favorites, said the increased speed of players in recent years was changing the game, making short-handed goals more frequent and making spectacular hits less frequent.
In response to questions about filling gaps, the speculated that the Caps will likely seek help bolstering the blue line. While not wanting to trade a goalie, they speculated that the Caps’ goalie depth made that a possibility.
The Caps’ line chemistry is continuing to evolve given all the new faces, they said. Laughlin thought Marcus Johansson has proven to be the toughest player to replace so far, while Beninati believed Alzner was difficult to replace given his prowess on defense and the penalty kill. They also thought that Justin Williams presence — both on-ice and off, was difficult to replace.
They also noticed that Jakub Vrana and Christian Djoos have made immediate impacts on the Capitals. Craig Laughlin thinks that Vrana is taking the next step and that he has been involved around the crease. He also admired Djoos’ breakout mentality and that he can jump into the play.
Joe B thinks that Vrana and Madison Bowey have stood out. He said that Madison looks apart physically. Joe also said that he is solid in own zone, he is a good skater, he has offensive upside, he shoots a lot. He also touched on that Bowey has developed greatly next to Brooks Orpik, who is paired with John Carlson at crunch times. Locker likes the nasty side of Bowey and the fact that pushes around when pushed around
They also discussed Tom Wilson saying he makes rambunctious plays and he is well-spoken, especially on the phone with the Department of Player Safety when he got suspended twice in the preseason. Beninati described Wilson as “politician like.” Craig Laughlin thinks that Wilson needs to change. “Wilson has to evolve, game is so fast… fastest it’s ever been… game is changing.”
They also talked about the evolution of the Capitals’ power play, saying that the addition of Evgeny Kuznetsov has added a new element. Kuznetsov and Backstrom are “extraordinary passers” and the Capitals’ coach Blane Forsythe is constantly changing strategies as defenders adjust. They predicted that the power play could feast on the Florida Panthers tonight given the Panthers’ struggles on the penalty kill this season.
In response to a fan question about rule changes they would like to see, Joe B said he would eliminate offside challenge for goals that were not scored off the rush. Locker responded saying he would eliminate the delay of game penalty and that he would reinstitute red line for two-line passes because of the speed of the game. He also said that for a delayed penalty, the defense would have to clear the puck past the red line to stop play.
Asked about what teams surprised them the most this year so far, Laughlin noted that the strong play of the New Jersey Devils and the weak starts by the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens. Joe B pointed to the Toronto Maple Leafs, saying that they are really good and will be “scary” if they add defensive depth. He also said Tampa Bay Lightning are really, really good.
By Harrison Brown