Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals return home from Tuesday night’s season-opening 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and look ahead to Thursday night’s home opener against the Calgary Flames.
Difficult night: Playing in front of family and friends from nearby Orland Park, Ill., Caps 19-year-old rookie defenseman Connor Carrick was on the ice for two of the Blackhawks’ six goals and in the penalty box for another.
Listed at a generous 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Carrick was outmuscled by 6-2, 223-pounder Brandon Bollig on the game’s first goal; was in the box for Brent Seabrook’s go-ahead goal in the second period; and lost track of Brandon Saad for the game-winner in the third.
“It’s tough,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I guess we’ll see, but they’re probably one of the toughest, if not the toughest team in the league. They come with a lot of speed. It’s your home town, too. I’ve had some terrible games in Vancouver [near his hometown of Burnaby] before. I’m not saying he played terrible, but it’s hard to play your first game at home to start a season.”
Adam Oates said he was not prepared to place blame on Carrick, saying every player on the ice contributes to a goal against.
Kind words: The win was the 661st for Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, the most regular-season wins among active NHL coaches.
After the game Quenneville and Blackhawks advisor and Hockey Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman chatted with Oates in the hallway.
Quenneville was very complimentary of the Caps and their power play, calling it the best in the NHL after seeing it go 3-for-6.
“I think [the Capitals] do a lot of good things that maybe we could pick up a few things off of that.
“They’re a good team. Last half of the season they had an amazing record [15-2-2]; an amazing road record. Great power play. [Alex] Ovechkin and some great weapons around him.”
Changing opinions: Amazing how winning a Hart Trophy can alter people’s opinions of you. NBC analyst Mike Milbury was harsh with his criticism of Ovechkin early last season, when he questioned his work ethic.
On Tuesday night Milbury was singing a different tune, as was his partner, Keith Jones.
“It’s always about Alex Ovechkin,” Milbury said, “and it will always be about Ovechkin until he can get this team deep into the playoffs and compete for a Stanley Cup title.”
Said Jones: “He really turned is game upside-down – he was outstanding. He led by example, he was a physical force…he really had that passion back for the game that might have been missing for a couple of weeks to start the season. I think he’s going to have even more this year, and that’s dangerous for the rest of the National Hockey League…I think he’s going on all cylinders, so watch out.”
Notable: The Blackhawks became the first team to win on the night of its banner raising ceremony since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. … The Capitals were outshot 18-6 in the second period but held a 13-8 advantage in the final period. … LW Brooks Laich [left hip flexor] appeared to get through his first game without any setbacks, playing 17:26. Ovechkin led all forwards with 22:13 of ice time; 6 of those minutes came on the power play. He also led all skaters with nine shots. He had four others blocked and one miss the net. D Mike Green led all Caps defensemen with 26:48 of ice time and six shots. C Eric Fehr was a team-worst minus-3. He won 6 of 10 faceoffs.