If someone had asked you before the season to guess whether the Caps would look better offensively or defensively at the start, most people probably would have picked defense.
With defensive guru Todd Reirden at the helm, Braden Holtby in net and a top four headlined by John Carlson who is starting to establish himself as one of the league’s top blue liners, plus an older offensive core with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie all over 30 years old, you certainly could be forgiven for thinking the offense would have more growing pains in the first month of the season than the defense.
And yet, three weeks into the season, the opposite has been true.
Take a guess as to which team has the top offense in the NHL. Toronto? Tampa Bay? Actually, it’s the Caps.
Washington ranks first in the league with 4.14 goals per game. Where they have struggled of late has been on the other end of the ice where the Caps are allowing 3.86 goals per game, good for only 28th in the league.
Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers was a horrible defensive game in which the Caps allowed five regulation goals and lost in a shootout. The problem was not that they allowed five goals, it’s that all five came from the slot directly in front of the net.
There were no deflections, no unlucky bounces, none of those chance hockey plays that make you throw up your hands and say, nothing they could have done about that one. No, there were just five goals scored in high-danger areas as the Panthers picked the defense apart.
Defensively, the Caps had no control of the front of their own net and that’s a problem.
Washington has allowed at least four goals in all four of their losses this season. Having a dominant offense does not matter nearly as much if the defense cannot keep up.
The Caps are starting to fall back in the rankings after three losses in four games. Where do they fall this week?
The obsession over how football is a team game, and how all 11 guys on the field matter on every single play, can be nauseating at times.
Plenty of things in an NFL contest happen because of one player beating another player. In other instances, it's about a single dude just absolutely screwing everything up all on his own (most often that dude is Blake Bortles).
But on Kapri Bibbs' 23-yard opening-drive touchdown catch vs. the Cowboys in Week 7, a ton of non-ball-carrying Redskins did in fact chip in to help get Bibbs into the end zone. It was one of those plays that just makes you want to scream FOOTBALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!
The first two 'Skins who deserve recognition on the score are Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff.
Lauvao, who was returning from injury, leaked out with Scherff and Chase Roullier to serve as Bibbs' personal, giant escorts to the goal line. He then showed excellent awareness to peel back and seal off Dallas D-linemen Antwaun Woods, which ended any hopes of a Cowboy catching Bibbs from behind.
The true hero, though, was Scherff. The human wood chipper got pieces of two opposing linemen before breaking out to the next level, diving and knocking Kavon Frazier out of Bibbs' path. Without Scherff's insane effort, the screen pass doesn't even result in positive yardage, let alone six points.
Here's a still image of the first two, key blocks:
Large Redskins weren't the only ones getting the job done in hand-to-hand combat, however. For a screen to elevate itself from solid play to major chunk play, you need receivers doing work well past the line of scrimmage, too.
Well, this screenshot of Josh Doctson and Brian Quick holding blocks at the sticks definitely qualifies as doing work:
And, lastly, there's the center, Roullier. The man who started the entire sequence with a snap from the 23-yard line eventually found himself at the 12, displacing Byron Jones to ensure that the home team's tailback would finish things dancing instead of getting up from the ground:
To enjoy the full FOOTBALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!-ness of the six-pointer, head to the 23-second mark of this video. Then, take a moment to reflect on all those poor Cowboys who thought they were going to tackle Kapri Bibbs throughout the course of that highlight, because they never really had a chance and that's just so sad for them.