Washington Capitals: Despite Poor Start, It's Not Time to Panic

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIIJanuary 23, 2013

January 19, 2013; Tampa FL, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and Washington Capitals center Marcus Johansson (90) talk during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Times Forum. Tampa Bay Lightning defended the Washington Capitals 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, loosing two straight games to open the 2013 season is not what the Washington Capitals had in mind. However, with 46 games still remaining in the shortened season, it's not time for doom and gloom in D.C.

There's no denying that things currently look bleak in Washington. The Caps are in the cellar of the Southeast division after dropping games to both Tampa Bay and Winnipeg. Washington was out-skated and outplayed badly in the two losses.

Through two games, young goaltender Braden Holtby has given up 10 goals. Careless mistakes in the defensive zone by his teammates have not helped his chances of being successful.

The team currently ranks 29th in the league in goals against.

Penalties have been one of the biggest issues early on. Washington has given its opponents 12 power-play opportunities, including seven in the loss at Tampa Bay. The Capitals rank 27th in the NHL, killing off just 58.3 percent.

Despite the poor performances and the awful statistics, there is hope for the team from our nation's capital. Washington has gotten solid play from it's two biggest offseason acquisitions, Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski.

Ribeiro, one of the top playmakers in the game, has already shown his ability to feed his teammates the puck with an assist in each game.

Wolski, a true journeyman who has played on five different teams since 2005, has gotten off to a solid start with the Capitals. He provides an offensive spark on the second line and has the skill to move up to the top line if needed. He has registered a goal and an assist and is averaging 15:22 of ice time.

Another positive is the fact that both Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are completely healthy. Backstrom has already registered two assists. Green, a deadly offensive weapon when on top of his game, has yet to record a point but leads the team in ice time at 27:16 a game.

Brooks Laich, a valuable forward who can fill in on any line, is set to return soon from an injury and should add another boost to the team.

When talking about the success or failure of the Capitals, all fingers seem to point at the face of the team, Alexander Ovechkin. The Russian winger, who has seen a decline in points over the past two seasons, should be primed to take advantage of the new offensive system and challenge for the league lead in goals.

That hasn't happened yet, with Ovechkin only managing one point and an assist in the first two games. However, it's a safe bet that he won't be held scoreless for long. Caps fans hope that the floodgates open soon for Alex and he returns to his 2007-08 form.

He scored a career-high 65 goals and 112 points that season.

Let's not forget that the NHL lockout meant that there was no regular training camp. The team had just six days together before the season got underway. That's hardly enough time to get acquainted with new head coach Adam Oates' style of play.

Though much of the roster is the same, this is the third coach the Caps have had since the start of last season. That means this team has had to learn three different systems in a year's time. That's a tough task for anyone.

Washington's roster is too talented not to figure it out. Though the condensed schedule makes it important to get off to a fast start, the Capitals should be just fine.

The reality is they are two games back in the division and are more than capable of putting it all together and getting wins in bunches. It just needs to start sooner rather than later.