G9 Capitals at Oilers

This photo is from 37 years ago (1974, November) if I have my facts straight. Darryl Sittler is the Leaf–wearing Frank Mahovlich’s number–and that’s Greg Joly defending. #10 for the Caps is (I believe) Ron Anderson, he had a great mutton-chop hockey card that year. Goalie is either Ron Low or John Adams.

I remember that first Capitals team for lots of reasons. Greg Joly was the #1 overall pick after an incredible spring that included his Regina Pats marching all the way to the Memorial Cup. I followed the Pats that spring (they also boasted Clark Gillies and a few others) and thought Joly would have a long, productive career. Not so much.

The other item: a HNIC game (and it may have been this one) in which the teams lined up at center ice for a faceoff which was followed mere seconds later by a Dave Keon goal. The Caps defenders had too much of a gap between them (they were close to the boards) and Keon pushed the puck behind the center and had (for all intents and purposes) a breakaway. Can you imagine? I’d seen enough hockey by then to recognize it was a play that wouldn’t come around often, and as it turned out I haven’t seen another one.

That Washington Capitals team was beyond awful. Milt Schmidt killed them at the expansion draft and the WHA chopped them into little tiny bits that summer. When some old guy like me tries to tell you that even the worst NHL team today is somehow historically bad, roll your eyes and walk away.

The early Capitals were frightening.

The current Capitals aren’t quite a murderer’s row but they’re good all the same. Early season stats suggest Washington is giving up 2 goals a game and scoring 4+–you’re not going to lose many games that way. Capitals stats tell us there are more than 2 lines scoring:

  1. 4 goals: Marcus Johansson & Jason Chimera
  2. 3goals: Alex Ovechkin, Mathieu Perreault
  3. 2 goals: Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Joel Ward

That’s 7 forwards on an early season pace to exceed 20 goals. Now, let’s compare that to the Oilers:

  1. 5 goals: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  2. 2 goals: Taylor Hall, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones

That’s 4 forwards on a pace for 20.

I didn’t think the Oilers would win the other night and I sure don’t think they’re going to win tonight. A win this evening would be magnificent but let’s review here: the Capitals have the best record in the league. Coach Renney is riding Khabibulin (I don’t know that he has a choice, the guy is playing very well) and that should mean Dubnyk is the regular by the time I put up my Christmas tree.

Khabibulin will be tested tonight in a big way. I expect that will be the story.

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