The Washington Capitals were shut out in a season-opener for the first time in franchise history, after their 4-0 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a disappointing result considering that there was so much excitement headed into the new year.
While it is easy to say that the Capitals are back to square one, there were certainly glimpses of this team playing Spencer Carbery’s new puck possessive system. Washington had a Corsi of 52.9% in the first period and had some quality chances in front of Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry.
“I really liked essentially the whole first period. I thought we had some really good stretches, some really good looks,” Carbery said on Sunday. “Breakouts were especially with our [defensemen] involved like there’s a lot of good things, some o-zone shifts we did a really good job.”
But after the first 20 minutes, the Capitals got away from their game. They became soft positionally and came second to loose pucks, and that is why the puck possession time saw a massive dip in the last two periods.
“What I found is we’ve got to find our polish offensively. Passes, shots like you saw so many shots deflected, miss the net, hit a skate, hit a stick, get blocked, 2-on-1, 3-on-1, ‘oh just off the toe of the stick, off the heel, in a guys skates,” Carbery said. “For a team that needs to be polished offensively and make those types of plays, those slot lines, the backdoor and you saw [Pittsburgh] make a few of those. Where it goes tic-tac-toe back of the net. We’re still trying to find that right now.”
One of the biggest issues in Friday’s affair was the lack of interior presence in the offensive zone. Whenever the Caps had sustained pressure, they could not get shots through to the net and did not have bodies in front of Jarry.
However, give credit to Pittsburgh. The Penguins did a terrific job of clogging the middle of the ice and taking away shooting lanes, which forced Washington to shoot from the perimeter. It’s very difficult to get into those high-danger areas when a team is playing that stingy defensively.
“You can have as much sustained o-zone time as you want, but unless you’re threatening and in attack mode in the appropriate times, there’s teams in this league that let you sit there and do whatever you want on the perimeter,” Carbery said on Sunday. “That’s going to be our challenge is ‘okay, a puck possession team, we’re able to gain possession, have some movement, now how do we turn that into quality opportunities? How do we turn that into interior presence? Deliver, get it back, do it again. Interior presence, deliver, get it back and do it again.’ That’s the line we’re walking.”
So Washington has the right game plan in place. It showed throughout the preseason, and in Friday’s loss, that it can play with the pace that Carbery has been harping on throughout training camp. The Caps just have to be quicker to loose pucks in all three zones so they can go on the counterattack to gain entry in the attacking zone. It also needs to be for a full 60 minutes.
The Caps will get a chance to rebound on Monday, Oct. 16 against the Calgary Flames at Capital One Arena.
By Jacob Cheris