Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Close 2nd, Caps Take On Lightning

Being 7-1-1 in your last nine games is definately something to boast about, especially when you were expected to be at the basement of the Eastern Conference. I had said before the season started that the Caps would make the playoffs this season, and they are proving me right. The Caps play the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, and as Mike Vogel points out, the Lightning have an opposite trend going of being 1-7-1 in their last nine games. With the Eastern Conference being grouped so tight right now, it's the perfect time for the Caps to grab hold of a secure spot in the East. Obviously you have to win and others have to lose for the ladder to work completely in your favor, but the odds of grabbing second in the conference are much better than expected. In addition, the Caps need to stake claim to the 2nd spot in their own division. The Southeast Division third place Carolina is one point behind the Caps for second in their division.

On to tonights game. Well, Zednik and Bradley are still out making it easier for Hanlon on who out of Klepis, Laich, and Beech gets dressed. Regardless, Brooks Laich has been playing great hockey. Ever since he got his first point on the season with a sweet spin-o-rama pass to Zednik, he's been playing with confidence and attitude. Even in games where he doesn't get on the board, he is one of the unsung heroes. I distinctly remember in the Ottawa game a couple of weeks ago how Laich and Boyd Gordon were two of the best players on the ice that game. Further more, two shorthanded goals in two straight games, both were pretty. I think that some expect too much of him right now. We see what he's capable of, and he is constantly improving. What more could you ask for? Still, Zednik and Bradley are missed. And now, I'm sure many fans are disappointed (as am I) because it looks as if for the first time this season since his call up, Erskine will not be dressed. Too bad, I was looking for another confrentation between he and Martin St. Louis. Oh well. I'm going to say Caps take this 4-1. Goals from Clark, Ovechkin, Heward, and Laich.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Let It Go, One Nation's Captial vs. Another

Okay, so the Caps played their best all around game this season against Buffalo on Saturday night, garnering them a 7-4 win. But they scored 4 goals? How is that great all around? Well, it's pretty hard to keep the Sabres off the scoreboard. So Ovechkin got fined $1000 for the late hit on Brier. That's that, no retribution will be sought, it's over. It's done. Let it go. It's been blown way out of proportion. Ovechkin is not a dirty player, and what he did was no dirtier than a defender giving a cross-check after the other team scores a goal, which happens all the time. If you actually know something about hockey, you would know that Ovechkin is not a dirty player, Brier didn't dive, and it's done with. Move on. What are you still doing here? Go! Move on! "It's over! Go home!" (To quote Ferris Bueller)

So tonight, it's one nation's capital vs. another. The Capitals and Senators go head to head, and both teams are on a streak. Some good news for the Caps is that Wade Redden will be out of the line-up tonight for Ottawa and that Dainius Zubrus is back in the line up for the Caps. I'm going to keep this semi-brief because there isn't all that much to say. I think Brent Johnson will be in goal tonight. Kolzig has played alot and I think it'd be smart to give him the night off to prepare for the Ducks on Friday. In addition, Brent Johnson has been stellar in his career against the Senators (3-0), including garnering a shutout last season in Ottawa. Will the Caps chase the starting goalie from the crease tonight for a fourth consecutive game. I think so, but I don't know if it will be their goalie or ours, seeing as what the trend has been the last few games, and how we started against the Senators last time. I'm going to go with a 4-2 Caps victory. Goals from Zubrus, Pettinger (great hot streak going for this guy), Bradley, and Ovechkin.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Time To Take a Leap, Who Will Step Up?

Speed kills, and tonight the Caps will be trying to stay alive against the speedy Buffalo Sabres. After last season, I had stated that the Ducks and Sabres will be in the cup finals, and the Ducks will take it. We'll see if in the end I am right, however, if it were solely based on points and standings and at this particular moment in time, I would be correct. The Sabres, who started the season as the best, and now only trails Anaheim by two points to lead the NHL, have been a force to be reckoned with this season. They were tough enough, as it is, to beat last season. Having much difficulty with the Sabres a season ago, the Caps are looking to extend their win streak to three games. This game is extremely important for the confidence of this young team. Having beat the Lightning and the Stars, the Sabres are a real testament to how this team can pull together. So who will step up?

Brian Sutherby has one career fight and two goals against the Sabres in 9 career games. Matt Bradley has two fights against the Sabres in his career. Donald Brashear has four goals and one fight in 30 career games against the Sabres. Shaone Morrisonn had his first career regular season NHL fight against the Sabres last season. Ben Clymer and Chris Clark have never been in a fight against the Sabres. Dainius Zubrus and Richard Zednik have each played in 36 career games against the Sabres and account for 34 career points against Buffalo. Jamie Heward is obviously not playing tonight, and Zubrus is listed as day to day with the flu. Zubrus (according to Mike Vogel) will be a "morning skate decision."

Alexander Semin and Matt Pettinger are each on point streaks and look to continue them tonight. Klepis is said to be centering Pettinger and Semin tonight instead of Beech. Jakub Klepis had a great game against the stars, recording two assists while filling in on the top line for Zubrus. Another player who is on a role is Steve Eminger. I say this because he has been not shying away physically, and making smart defensive moves in the past couple of games. He seems to be getting his confidence back and finally clicking with a partner in John Erskine. These two create a pairing that clears the crease, physically gets in your face, carries the puck, and can potentially make break-out passes. I must say though, I am a little disappointed that it is guessed that Brooks Laich will not be in the line-up. He made by far the best play of the Dallas Stars game, setting up Richard Zednik for a goal. If Zubrus is unable to play tonight, I'd like to see Laich in the line-up.

So my prediction for tonight, well there will be two. I like to be optimistic, but I have an uneasy feeling of how we will fare against this speedy team. If the Caps win, it will be 4-3. If the Caps lose, it will be 6-4. Goals will come from Pettinger, Clark, Klepis, and Zednik.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Caps Burn-out Stars, Laich & Zednik Get It Started

Okay, so yesterday my prediction slated for Zubrus and Brashear scoring. Well Zubrus was scratched due to being under the weather, and Brashear didn't score. However, I was right in that Pettinger scored, and the Caps were going to win by one. I thought I was going to be proven wrong when the Caps were up 4-1 at the end of the second, however the Stars jammed 3 goals home in the third. The third goal should not have happened. The front of the net was crowded with almost every player that was on the ice, and Jussi Jokinen snagged a shot when the puck trickled out of the scrum. Too much traffic. By the second periods end, I was thinking to myself that it was a low shooting game. After two periods, the shots were 18-14 favoring Dallas. However, the Stars came out with 20 more shots in the third. Even though the Caps won this game, it shows they need to learn to play with a lead.

Matt Pettinger was all over the ice. He scored a goal to prove it. However, if one only saw the stat sheet, they wouldn't know what role he played in this victory. He created many rushes, alot of pressure on the Stars, and maintain defensively responsible the whole time. Pettinger was also camping out in front of the net ready for any blasts to come his way to try and redirect. Pettinger is my pick for the hardest working player of the game. Usually I see it as Clark, Zubrus, Kolzig, but Pettinger earned it last night. By far the prettiest play of the night came on the first goal the Caps scored. Brooks Laich took it from their zone, fighting to keep it along the boards, and carried it in with two men on him. He made a spin pass to Zednik who stuffed it home. Brooks Laich has had a rocky start, however I think that this will definately help his confidence. He's young, has lots of potential, and needs to see some production from himself to get more energy and confidence going within him.

I also want to touch a little more on Richard Zednik. He seems to get some flak from fans about how he hasn't been scoring alot, or that he is overrated. Someone once said to me that they thought I was rediculous for stating he's a proven 30 goal scorer. Well, he scored 30 goals in a season, therefore proving he could do it. The only time Zednik has not scored 20 or more goals are in seasons where he has played in only 69 games or less. In the 97-98 season where he played 65 games and scored 17 goals, he was on pace for 21.5 goals. In the 99-00 season, he played 69 games, he scored 19 goals and was on pace for 22.5 goals. In the 00-01 season where he played 62 games and scored 16 goals, he was on pace for 21 goals. Last season, he scored 16 goals in 67 games, and was on pace for 20. In the 02-03 season, Zednik scored 31 goals and 50 points. In the 03-04 seaons, he scored 26 goals and 50 points, achieving back to back 50 point seasons.

When playing healthy, he is a guarenteed 20 goal scorer. This year, he has been one of the most solid players when it comes to defensive responsibility, and could easily score 20 goals this season if he isn't sideined by a third injury. The second injury only sat him out one game if I remember correct. Zednik also has 8 assists thus far this season and is on pace for 32 assists. If he meets his pacings, and hits his usual hot streak stride, he will have another 50 point season. Not too shabby for a 10th round pick. Hopefully the Caps re-sign him, but with a little bit of an overall salary cut, but a boost in incentives. Obviosuly I'm glad he's back, and I think he fits in great with this team. He works hard and has created many opportunities.