The Washington Times - October 12, 2009, 10:59PM

Here’s a quote from The Captain that pretty much sums it up right now for the Washington Capitals:

“Third periods are where good teams become great teams where they win no matter what. It’s automatic,” said Chris Clark. “For us to be a great team, we’ve got to get to that point.”

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Despite all of the preseason hype and expectations, the Washington Capitals are not a great team … right now. The Caps are a good team and maybe a very good team. But it is time to shelve the “great team” or “elite team” status for a while.

Consider …

* When elite teams — especially ones with vaunted power plays — have three extra-man chances in the third period while holding a 2-1 lead, it is game over. ESPECIALLY with a 5-on-3 for 53 seconds.

* When elite teams take a lead into the third period three times in four games, they do not lose all four games.

* When elite teams play other good-to-great-to-elite teams, they do not go 1-2-2 against them (sorry, beating winless Toronto doesn’t count here).

So at this early juncture in the season, it is unfair to the other “elite” teams in the NHL  to put the Caps in with them. Does this mean the Caps won’t be an elite team this year? Absolutely not — in fact there is plenty of evidence to say that once they fix their issues on special teams they will be.

Some other thoughts from tonight …

* Mike Knuble’s first game on the top line was a success. They produced two goals in the first period, and it feels like every time they have the puck in the offensive end they are going to score.

* Conversely, Bruce Boudreau wasn’t as enthused with the new-look second line. Brooks Laich, Brendan Morrison and Alexander Semin were on the ice for both goals against. He said the team needs to find a good fit for everybody.

* Jose Theodore had another very good night, and he was particularly filthy in the third period (the goal at the end of the long shift aside) and in overtime. Considering the opponent (San Jose) and how well Theodore has played in the past two games, it seems like a good bet that he will play again Thursday. But that remains to be seen.

* John Erskine left the game in the second period and didn’t return. Boudreau said he’s day-to-day with an upper body injury after blocking a shot.

* Tom Poti was also hurting at the end of the game after blocking a shot in overtime. He was also sick. Not sure about his status for tomorrow’s practice.

In closing, don’t read the top part of this as a call for panic. There are 76 games left in the season. That’s a long, long time to fix the fixable (that’s important to note, other less-talented teams have problems that aren’t as easily fixed) problems. After Thursday the schedule is going to lighten considerably, which will also probably help in the standings.

As long as effort isn’t the issue (and it only has been one time), the Caps are going to pile up the points because they’re too talented not to.