Caps Preview: Week 2
After a successful start to the 2014-15 season, the Caps now enter their first full week of play. With a 1-0-1 record against the Canadiens and Bruins, they’re looking to extend their momentum to the three games slated for this week. Here’s a look at the upcoming games, featuring the Sharks, Devils, and Panthers.
Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography
10/14 vs. Sharks
Of the three teams visiting the Verizon Center this week, the Sharks are easily the most formidable opponent. Despite blowing a 3-0 playoff series lead over the eventual Cup champs, they remain a dangerous team. They’ve played two games thus far and won both by a significant margin–4-0 over the Kings and 3-0 over the Jets, respectively.
The Sharks’ success can be chalked up to a high-powered offense, rock-solid defense, and superb goaltending. However, they allowed at least 30 shots in both games, something the Caps were frequently guilty of last season. The Sharks also killed off all seven penalties they’ve taken so far, but only capitalized on one of their 12 power-play opportunities. And they (unsurprisingly) dominated the Jets in possession, but couldn’t out-shoot the Kings.
The Caps failed to out-possess the Bruins, yet came away the clear victors. The reverse happened in their season/home opener against the Habs, a game in which they failed to score on five power-play opportunities. Against the Bruins, however, they notched two of a potential four power-play goals, courtesy of Ovechkin and Green. And of the five goals they’ve scored so far, three have been at even-strength. Establishing a strong forecheck and avoiding defensive miscues will be key against the Sharks, given their exceptional offense.
10/16 vs. Devils
In two games, the Devils look like an entirely different team from last season. They no longer have an anemic offense; in fact, they’ve scored five or more goals in their two contests. The first, a 6-4 win over the Flyers, saw goals come from seven different players. Former Flames sniper Mike Cammalleri made his presence known, tallying two goals in the victory, while Wayne Simmons also lit the lamp twice. However, the Devils gave goalie Schneider a workout by allowing 39 shots and taking only 26.
Their following game, a crushing 5-1 rout of the Panthers, again saw a handful of players notch goals. After going 0-for-3 on the power play, the Devils capitalized on two of five possible opportunities. Their penalty kill success rate shot up from 60% to 87.5%, though they gave the Panthers eight possible chances to tally power-play goals.
The Devils totaled 33 penalty minutes in their two games. Given the Caps’ success on the man advantage, undisciplined play could easily set the Devils back. If their possession numbers don’t improve significantly, the Caps could have a reasonably winnable game on their hands. Before heading to DC, the Devils visit the Lightning. How they fare against one of the Eastern Conference’s strongest teams will further highlight their strengths and weaknesses.
10/18 vs. Panthers
It’s been a while since anyone took the Panthers seriously, and even the addition of top draft pick Aaron Ekblad won’t change that. However, the Panthers have done decent damage control in their two games played, including a decent fight against the rival Lightning, where they lost 3-2 and allowed 32 shots on goal. The game was unsurprisingly dominated by penalties (21 minutes for Florida, and 32 minutes for Tampa.) The Panthers finished with a 57.1% success rate on the penalty kill.
Their next game was a 5-1 loss to the Devils, which I mentioned in the previous breakdown. The Panthers out-possessed the Devils but failed to generate offense. The lone goal came from Derek Mackenzie, who also registered five hits.
Taking on the Panthers shouldn’t be a challenge for the Caps. The two teams faced one another three times last season, with the Caps sweeping the series. However, each game was decided by a single goal. As always, establishing a lead and protecting it should be the Caps’ objective.