A new season begins for the Washington Capitals as they post a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. John Erskine scored the game winning goal 2 minutes after Michael Nylander's power play goal. Nylander, along with Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti are the fresh faces via free agency who have already shown a dramatic impact on this Caps team, and for the better. Other fresh faces who have cracked the line-up for the Washington Capitals out of training camp are David Steckle and Jeff Schultz. In order to do this while keeping Laich, Bradley, and Sutherby, Eminger was placed on injured reserve and Ben Clymer was sent to the minors.
Excuse me, but Jeff Schultz is not ready for this team. He wasn't as good as many claimed last season, and he was utterly horrendous in the preseason. He is not a "towering presence," he is tall, but lanky, and quite frankly extremely soft. Why he is on this roster is a complete mystery to me. Not saying that he was a first round bust. I'm not saying that at all. But it's obviously clear that he is just not ready for the NHL. He does not see the ice, he doesn't skate well, he just pretty much stands there. Come game time in the opener in Atlanta against the Thrash, Erskine is dressed over Schultz, and I'm sure some were wondering what Hanlon was thinking. It payed off with the game winning slap-shot goal.
Now that I've gotten my rant on Schultz not being ready out of the way, Eminger is another question mark. He's shown flashes of being solid, but he's not inconsistent. He just hasn't played well. I hope he will prove me wrong and show he is the first round draft pick he is. After all of this, there is a heap of optimism. Kozlov has simply been a beast all over the ice and will most likely add 20+ goals and 60+ points playing alongside Ovechkin. Nylander is back for another go round and will help the young 1st rounder Backstrom develop, while trying to match and beat a career-high previous season of 83 points. Tom Poti, the new #1 defenseman who had a career year on the New York Islanders last season as their #1 defenseman has shown signs of improvement defensively and still has his massive shot. In addition, Kolzig was at some of his best last season, and is said to be in his best shape now. My prediction, Caps will make the playoffs placed 2nd in the Southeast division, somewhere between 6 and 8 in the Easter Conference for their playoff berth. I also see them going into the second round, as long as they remain healthy.