The First True Test of the Season

Posted October 28, 2011

The Capitals suffered their first loss of the season on Thursday, a 2-1 decision to the Oilers in Edmonton. Some fans may point out that the loss of Mike Green contributed. Some will point to the way that the game was officiated – in Edmonton’s favor. No matter how it gets spun, the fact remains that the Capitals lost and are no longer undefeated. However, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Ask any Caps fan, player, or member of the front office if they would take a 7-1-0 record after the first eight games, and they would jump all over it. No team has ever, nor will ever, record 164 points in a season. While most people will point to other games thus far and say that they were the biggest games of the year (Detroit or Pittsburgh to name a few), Saturday’s game in Vancouver is truly the most important game of the Capitals season to date, because it will so far be the only example of how the Capitals respond to a loss. This game will also be the biggest measuring stick to compare the Capitals to being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Aside from statistics, there are different things to look at to see where a team stacks up in relation to the rest of the league. We look at the forwards and see how much scoring is generated from all four lines. We ask if the forwards grind and play tough game-in-and-game-out for 82 games, plus playoffs. We check to see if there’s a mixture of shut-down defenders and ones who generate scoring chances without being a liability. We check to see if the goaltenders stand tall and bail the team out when needed. While all of these things are important, there is one question that stands out. Can the team rise up after being popped in the mouth one night, shrug it off, and win the next game?

Nothing will ever go perfect for a team. There will always be injuries. Teams will lose. True championship teams have the ability to rise up above those shortcomings and find ways to triumph. In the military, the term is “adapt and overcome” and it simply can’t be put any better. Can the Capitals adapt to Mike Green’s injury and overcome the void and stand tall on the blueline? Can the Capitals adapt to taking that loss in Edmonton and overcome that punch in the mouth to take the win in Vancouver? Saturday night those questions will be answered, and then the true measure of being a Stanley Cup contender will shine through.

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