Game Preview: Montreal Canadiens @ Washington Capitals
The Canadiens travel to Washington for their first road game of the season to take on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.
As usual, we sent some questions to our opponents for the game today, which happens to be SB Nation giant Japer's Rink. Becca H was kind enough to send us some answers.
1.) Now that the Dale Hunter era is over, what do you expect to see from Alex Ovechkin? Is he a more complete player, or is it just a matter of letting him go so he can get back to his scoring ways?
It's probably a little of both. Ovechkin did seem to learn some things about defensive responsibility under Hunter (to the point where he was blocking shots on a semi-regular basis), so we're all hoping he didn't completely forget all of that since last season - and Oates is starting to use him a little on the penalty kill, a new role for #8, so there is some element of building a "complete" player out of him.
That said...it's always about letting Alex be Alex, and under this new system the hope is that they'll do just that. He's a dynamic, talented player, and trying to force him to do too many things out of his wheelhouse just takes away from the weapon he can be. So far the jury's out on whether it's working or not (since the first two games have been a little bumpy for the whole team) but hopefully in time Oates can help him become a more dynamic forward without turning into something he's not.
2.) The talk over the summer was that rookie coach Adam Oates would put into a place a much more offense heavy system than Hunter had, do you see evidence of this happening yet?
Tough to say. They definitely seem to be a more aggressive team than last year's Hunter-era Caps (low bar, but still), and you can see that the team is much more active overall - there's less ceding of the ice to the opponent and less waiting around for the other team to make a mistake, the defense is more involved in the play, etc.
So far the evidence hasn't really been there on the scoreboard but that could just be a product of the rust and the adjustment to the system. Passes aren't quite hitting their targets the way they should and sustained attacks tend to unravel as a result - but hopefully when the rust wears off and they start to find their timing again, it will create more offense. Hopefully.
3.) Braden Holtby has seriously struggled to start the year after his brilliant postseason last year, but I've felt for a long time that Michal Neuvirth is better than his numbers. Do you think Neuvirth has a chance to be the long term starting goalie?
Holtby certainly hasn't been as sharp as he was during the playoffs last year, but his struggles so far probably have as much to do with the team in front of him as his own issues. While a few should have been stopped, a lot of times he's been facing shots with mass chaos in front of him and players having no clue where they're supposed to be or who they're supposed to be covering.
As for Neuvirth, he certainly has a chance to take over the number one spot. The understanding has been that, while the two will share duties, it's Holtby's net to lose - but if Holtby can't rebound from a tough start or has a prolonged slump, and Neuvirth can step in with the kind of performances we know he can put together, he's more than capable of taking the job away.
Like the Panthers on Tuesday, the Washington Capitals swept the lowly Montreal Canadiens last season. A 3-0-1 record against Montreal included the Capitals outscoring the Habs 13-3.
Tomas Plekanec was the only Hab with 2 points in the 4 games against the Caps last year, while Washington was lead by the now departed Alexander Semin who had 5 points.
It was a team effort by Washington last year with 10 different Capitals netting 2 points against the Habs, while MIchal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun put up a combined 97.7% save percentage.
Saves are something that hasn't come easy for the Capitals this year, as Holtby has allowed 10 goals in just two games.
Today should be a real test for Carey Price behind a weakened defense without P.K. Subban, as the Capitals are a much more impressive offensive team than Toronto or Florida.
Lineups for the Habs should be the same as they were against Florida.
Game time is 7:00PM on both RDS and TSN-Habs.