I will do my best to post the day after most games with my thoughts of the game and what went on with the team in the time since my previous post though that by no means is certain.
After months of waiting the season is finally upon us. I was at the game on Sunday and the team player relatively well with only a few small blips which I felt was a huge positive, especially scoring 4 goals vs the Blackhawks as the team had been struggling all pre-season with scoring. The team's strongest member was no doubt their goaltender...but not Vokun...NEUVIRTH! After such a great pre-season it was announced this morning that he would start the opener...to the surprise of many, myself included, if only because speculation was Volkun was the #1 from the time he signed. Goalie controversies are nothing new to the team or fans under Boudreau, then again who's to say that there is a controversy right now? Maybe Vokun starts the next 5. I guess we'll find out in the days and weeks to come but hopefully no matter who is in net the starter plays great and the back-up is fine with their role.
Now let me touch on my expectations for the members of the team for this year.
Nicklas Backstrom - Unfortunately I fear that last year may not have been a fluke down season but then again that's kinda how I am with things. I'm hoping he goes back to the Backstrom of 2009-10 but I think we'll only see a return to that if Ovie bounces back. Projection: 30 goals, 55 assists
Jay Beagle - Well the coach loves this hardworking kid but lets be honest, he's replaceable if he doesn't produce. Sure he's a 3rd/4th line guy but the team can't rely on it's top 2 lines to get them through games. Beagle will do the little things though and could be what Brooks Laich was a few years back. I don't see him getting 20 goals but 15 is possible. Projection: 13 goals, 22 assists
Troy Brouwer - I'm becoming a total mark for this guy. He can score some and he can hit. He's a grinder down low and can play on any of the 4 lines. Against Chicago he turned the puck over in the offensive zone but stuck with it and stole it right back before the Blackhawks could even move it down the ice. Its the little things like that which will prove beneficial AND he didn't take a penalty doing it...watch this man Sasha. Projection: 24 goals, 32 assists
Jason Chimera - He's fast, he's bald, and if he was a little more rugged looking he'd be Jason Statham. Another grinder, I don't know that Chimmer does anything particularly well but he does enough to play as high as the first line. Projection: 14 goals, 20 assists
Jeff Halpern - The hometown boys comes home again. The Potomac, MD native is coming toward the end of his career and he came home to finish it where it all began. Halpie will center the 4th line, the hard nosed blue-collar guys who aren't flashy but they can set the tone and get crowds and teams right back into the game. Injuries made it look like he was done a few years ago but Jeff bounced back nicely in Montreal last season. He'll see limited ice time playing on the 4th line but could get more on other lines as the season goes on. Projection: 12 goals, 36 assists
Matt Hendricks - The guy that came out of nowhere last season to make the team as a non-roster invitee out of training camp and won over the fans with his hitting, flair to score, and his willingness to drop the gloves when needed. With Matt Bradley gone and DJ King most likely being DNP-CD bound for most of the season Hendricks will probably be the main fighter on the team. I think he has the ability to score 20-25 goals but its far from likely Projection: 16 goals, 24 assists, 15 fights
Marcus Johansson - He was surprise #2 last season. MoJo had never played a second of hockey in America when he made the team out of training camp last season. After a slow start some fans were questioning Boudreau's decision to keep him on the roster but as the season went on and Johansson got more comfortable he showed why he was playing with the big boys. This pre-season hasn't been as kind and its questioned whether he is 2nd line Center material, heck he's even been on the 1st line with Ovie, but he's not producing as expected and he's not great in the dot either. Projection: 17 goals, 33 assists
DJ King - On the team because they need to have 23 active bodies without hurting the progression of guys like Perreault, Eakin, Bourque and some others that should be on a roster and actually playing. He's also good for about 2-3 shifts for games where the Caps need an enforcer against another team with a goon or goons. That said he'll be lucky to play more minutes than his jersey number (17) than games. Projection: He may get time vs Pittsburgh, Anaheim and that could be it since the Rangers dumped that numbnuts Avery.
Mike Knuble - The "old man" is still out there grinding at 40 years old. He started slow last year before picking up steam. Whether playing opposite Ovechkin or dropping down to the second line there is one place you will always find Knubes and that is right in front of the net, shielding the goalie, looking to deflect a shot or screen him from seeing the puck. I really hope, as I have the last few years, that the rest of the team watches and learns from him. Knuble is everything Brooks Laich should be when his career ends. Projection: 24 goals, 36 assists
Brooks Laich - Once known as the guy that was acquired for franchise cornerstone Peter Bondra, Brooksie has done a hell of a job the past few years that not only won over Caps fans but also netted him a nice contract in the off-season. Whether he's playing the wing, or center, or even filling in for an injured defenseman Laich is a gritty hockey player who plays for the love of the game and the fans. Don't think so? What other player would stop and fix a flat tire of someone on the side of the road after their team was just eliminated from the playoffs or admit to throwing a paycheck into his glovebox and forgetting about it and not even care if he cashed it? I loved Bonsai and hated seeing him go and even held that against Laich when I first saw him play...now I love him and want him to retire a Cap. Projection: 22 goals, 32 assists
Alex Ovechkin - Let's get it out of the way. Ovie is DONE! He'll NEVER be as good as Crosby, even with Crosby's concussion sidelining his career. Last season wasn't a down year it was a sign of things to come. Same moves into the zone that teams easily stopped, never changing, and...oh who am I kidding. Sure I feel Ovie might not produce like he used to and would be fine with that as long as the Caps win the Cup and he stays healthy. Ovie will have his hot streaks and his struggles but he should be just fine...as long as he stops partying all hours of the night and maybe he has to drop the "C" from the jersey too. Projection: 54 goals, 68 assists
Mathieu Perreault - The man looks like one of the "Three Musketeers" and he should be fencing instead of playing hockey. He's small, he's thin, and when he gets checked he goes flying about 10 yards down the ice but he is pretty good with the stick, in spurts. When he gets a hot streak "The Keystone Light Guy" scores in bunches but when he doesn't its usually back to the minors, only to be called up and then he goes crazy that first game back. Now that he's out of options sending him down causes him to go through waivers and I think he'd quickly be claimed (see Chris Bourque 2009 - Penguins). Matty lead the team in the pre-season and hopefully he takes that play into the regular season. I think MP85 will see his fair share of DNPs and may be alternating with Beagle (and at times Hendricks, Ward and Brouwer because that's just what Gabby does). Projection: 11 goals, 18 assists
Alexander Semin - While I might "get an erection for Ovechkin while screamin' for Semin" I get headaches from screaming at Semin. The kid has all the talent in the world but doesn't apply himself fully. He's been blasted by former teammates this off-season (Matt Bradley, David Steckel, Shaonne Morisson) and he says it doesn't matter..fine don't let it matter, let it burn inside you and push you. Semin is usually good for around 30 goals when he should have 50, and a dozen missed games when he should have a handful. Hey I'm fine if you don't want to rush back from injury and possibly make it worse but put forth effort at all times while out there. Too many times Sasha gives up on plays or pulls up and when he makes a mistake he then tries to fix it by committing a stupid penalty. You'd think 2 minutes in the box would teach him a lesson but no. He could be dealt at the deadline but I'm sure he'll be here through the playoffs. We'll see who shows up throughout the season but I hope he channels his inner Beyonce and goes all Sasha Fierce. Projection: 42 goals (with 2 hat tricks vs Tampa), 44 assists
Joel Ward - "Joelle" can either become a fan favorite in DC or he'll be a playoff anomaly that the fans will want gone quickly. Another guy brought in to be like Knuble and do his thing down low, Joel Ward banked in on a fine post-season in Nashville to play on the 3rd line in Washington. I will admit if he can play and pass like he did on the goal that Laich scored vs the Blackhawks in that final pre-season game I say "Welcome Mr. Ward." Most fans though will be happy if he just shows up again in the playoffs when the rest of the team tends to show up in physical form but have checked out mentally Projection: 18 goals, 26 assists
Karl Alzner - As the left-handed act of the Carlzner duo Alzner is the defensive savant of the Caps new top defensive pairing. What Karl lacks offensively he makes up for with his defense and provides a nice balance to the pair. Projection: 6 goals, 18 assists
John Carlson - "The All-American Hero" and the right-handed half of the Carlzner duo has huge expectations heading into this year. Offensively gifted and strong defensively, fans are waiting for Carlson to unleash the fury and provide support that has been lacking the past two years on the blue-line. Projection: 12 goals, 32 assists
John Erskine - The man we affectionately call "Lumberjack" John Erskine's tenure in DC will always be remembered for two fights he had last year. Early in the year he had the "Fight of the Year" against Atlanta and on New Year's he had a great battle at the Winter Classic. Not overly gifted and more of a lumbering force John Erskine had his best year as a Capital last season. He'll start this season on the shelf recovering from shoulder surgery and will most likely be the 7th D-man on the team that will fill in for injuries/rest or based on match-up. Projection: 2 goals, 14 assists
Mike Green - Its been two years since Green had a career year and with a new contract looming I'd expect a bit of a return to form for Mike. Whether it's been stick issues or injuries to his head or lower body, Mike hasn't been the same since just before the 2009 playoffs. Offensively that's been a terrible thing for the team but last year he played better defensively than I've ever seen him. If there is a way to combine both Greenie may be in store for his best season ever. The question remains will he be back next season, especially with his injury history, declining offensive production and Orlov looming in the minors. Projection: 22 goals, 32 assists
Roman Hamrlik - The Hammer brings over a decade of NHL experience and the ability to block shots to the team. Having been on the Canadiens team that upset the Caps in the playoffs two years ago he could teach the team what they did to shut down Ovie and the Caps and teach the guys how to block shots, and not get hurt, and may be a perfect piece to this championship-caliber puzzle. Projection: 4 goals, 18 assists
Tom Poti - Great guy, busted groin, career over. Would be nice if he'd retire and come off the books and take a position on the coaching staff but that's not likely to happen. Projection: 0 games
Jeff Schultz - "Sarge" is the guy we all love to hate. I'll always remember him for his fall in the playoffs a few years back that put him out for the remainder of the post-season with a bruised ego :) and for his full rink goal against Atlanta..yeah his lowest and highest point. I'm not really a fan of Schultz but he's been a solid mate of Mike Green the past few years and got himself a nice contract two years ago because he benefited from playing on the ice at the same time as Ovie, Backstrom and Green which is why he lead the league in +/-. He's expendable to me but he does provide stability and maybe he'll bounce back this year after mono kinda through him off last year...but I doubt it. Projection: 1 goals, 14 assists
Dennis Wideman - Didn't get to see much of "the fat man" last year because of injury but he gives the team 6 solid defensemen when he's healthy. Of course he left the ice early a few days ago and hasn't practiced since which should concern fans...as should the fact that we're down to Sean Collins as the back-up with Poti and Erskine out. Wideman, if healthy, should provide some help on all 3 facets of the ice (even strength, the PK and the PP). Projection: 4 goals, 24 assists
Tomas Vokun - I've never really been sold on him, probably because he's been on some dreadful Panthers teams but the stats don't lie and his contract makes him a bargain. Vokun didn't have a bad pre-season but it wasn't eye-opening either and as it turns out he's not starting tonight as expected. I'd still expect Vokun to start around 50-60 games and as long as the offense holds up their end of the bargain he should garner the win in the majority of them. Its the playoffs where he'll have to really step it up. Projection: 55 games started, 35-40 wins, 2.45GAA
Michal Neuvirth - Neuvy was amazing last season, though some stats were shown to be a bit deceiving...whatever dude played and the Caps won...til the playoffs. If Vokun plays well and doesn't get hurt Neuvy is looking at around 25 starts, more if he's the hot one down the stretch. Also the fan base loves Neuvy so once they start chanting his name he could be the man...of course the same was said and done with Varlamov and Theodor...history repeated itself last year with Neuvirth and Varlamov and look where Varly is now. Projection: 27 games started, 20 wins, 2.24GAA