By Andy Palm, Columnist
The Caps officially opened up their 2019-20 regular season with a bang. Washington racked up five points in their first three games. In their first game, they took down the defending champion St. Louis Blues, 3-2.
Then, they took a trip to Long Island and defeated the New York Islanders, 2-1 before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime during their home opener. Left winger Jakub Vrana has shined in the first two outings, scoring the game-winning overtime goal against St. Louis.
Goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov made his NHL debut on Friday vs. the Islanders, and he did not disappoint. Samsonov saved 25 of the 26 shots he faced, mounting up a .962 save percentage.
Though the season is only three games in, the Caps have put a lot on display that fans should be excited about. In St. Louis, they started off a little sloppy. The Blues were playing with a lot of adrenaline due to the pregame ceremonies in which they raised their first-ever championship banner.
However, as the game went on and the adrenaline wore off, it was clear that Washington was the better team. It was a fast and physical brand of hockey for the Caps, and St. Louis was unable to keep up.
This became very prevalent when the game went into overtime. Washington attacked, while the Blues struggled to play keep away; hoping to make it to a shootout. Spoiler alert, they didn’t; thanks to Vrana.
This team looks different than in years’ past. They’re playing much more aggressive in the neutral zone, which has put a lot more pressure on opposing teams. Their forecheck in both games has overwhelmed the opponent and force them to play on their heels. Their speed allows them to do so.
Each line contains a lot of quickness, which allows them to put pressure on the puck. The big question is if this aggressive style of play lasts all year. Physical, fast hockey is effective but exhausting. The high energy style of play isn’t necessarily sustainable every night unless you have the right personnel. The Caps might have that, but only time will tell.
Washington’s power play is still one of the best in the league, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Even without center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is serving a three-game suspension to start the year, the power play units were able to execute very well. They’ve had five total power play opportunities this season, and have scored on two of them.
Although this may not be impressive, the team looked great when given a man advantage. They’re able to keep possession for the entirety of the penalty, and their cycling is very good as well. What sets the Capitals power play apart from the rest of the league is quite simple, the players are just better.
Every man on the ice excels at getting pucks on net. Center Nicklas Backstrom, right wingers T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson, defenseman John Carlson, and of course, left winger Alex Ovechkin. All five are dual threats when it comes to shooting and passing.
Wilson is usually not on the first power play unit; as stated earlier, this spot usually belongs to Kuznetsov. When Kuznetsov comes back from his suspension, we’ll get a real first look at the Capitals power-play unit.
What’s impressive about Washington’s power play unit is that everyone knows the goal is to get the puck to Ovechkin. However, there is seemingly nothing defenders can do to negate Ovechkin from getting his opportunities from the left point. He didn’t cash in on any power play chances yet, but there is no doubt they will come.
Overall, the Caps have been very impressive through the first two games of the season. One role player who stuck out to me is newcomer Left Winger Brendan Leipsic. Leipsic has yet to register a stat, however, his speed on the ice was noticeable.
There were a few shifts when both left wingers Brendan Leipsic and Carl Hagelin were on the ice at the same time. Both players are extremely quick, which could create some great scoring opportunities this season; especially when on the penalty kill.
The team looks cohesive and seems to already know their identity as a team; fast and physical. So far so good for the Washington Capitals in this brand-new NHL season.