Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Lightning

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: St. Petersburg Times Forum
401 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
When: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Broadcast Information: NC8/CSN+, WTNT-570 AM; Sun Sports TV, 620 WDAE

Media Notes:
WashingtonCaps.com - not up by the time of this post, but I'm sure it will be available tomorrow...
Um, ew...am I the only one bothered by this?
NHL.com Feature on Brian Pothier
Washington Post
St. Petersburg Times

Season Series: Caps 0-1-0, Lightning 1-0-0

Season Standings: Caps 8-9-6, 22 points - 4th in division, 13th in conference; Bolts 13-10-1, 27 points - 3rd in division, 8th in conference

Last Game: October 21 in Washington, Caps lost 6-4
- There's one thing to be said about the Capitals - they are consistent, at least in the way they lose. Once again they took a lead into the second period, and once again sloppy play, turnovers and too many penalties undid them. Tampa scored 3 unanswered goals in the second period, including 2 in 22 seconds, to hand the Caps their first home regulation loss of the season.
- Hanlon shortened the bench in the third period in an effort to add more offense and the Caps responded to a degree, outshooting the Bolts 15-10 in the final frame and adding two goals. Despite the efforts, though, Tampa also added 2 goals in the third period to make the final 6-4.
- The Caps committed a season-high 18 turnovers, including 3 each by defense partners Eminger and Clymer (can't imagine why he was moved off of D). It's unknown, at least in the official stats, whether that number has been beaten since then...but I wouldn't doubt it.
- There were some bright spots in the game - the Caps were only given 3 chances on the power play and were able to convert on 2 of them (although they did allow one shorthanded goal against). Meanwhile they killed off 6 of 7 penalties. They also dominated the Bolts in the faceoff circles, winning 42 of the 65 draws.
- Ovechkin fired only 5 shots on net the whole night and was topped by his countryman Semin, who had 7 shots and who continued his then-active point scoring streak with a goal and an assist. Mike Green also added a goal, his first of the season.

Things to Look for:
- Just to show how quickly things can happen in this league - last week the Caps were sitting in 9th place, well within reach of those coveted top 8. After a 6-game losing streak, they have dropped below .500 for the first time since October 12 and they now sit at 13th in the conference; Florida and Philadelphia are at 14th and 15th, respectively. I'm not saying the Caps need to play desperate hockey, because it's still very early and teams can get very hot very quickly. They do need to start playing with some intensity, though - Saturday's game against the Isles was a good start, now they need to build on it so they can stay within striking distance. These division matchups go a long way to improving your playoff odds, as we've seen.
- Tampa Bay's penalty killing is actually worse than the Caps - they are ranked 30th with just under 74% effectiveness when shorthanded. Incidentally, the Caps' ranking is nothing to write home about, either...they've slipped to 24th in the league, killing 80.9% of penalties.
- Caps' enforcer Donald Brashear will be serving the final game of his three-game suspension and will likely return to the lineup Thursday against Dallas. His absence was probably more sorely missed in the last few games than it will be tonight - Tampa Bay doesn't have quite the goonish image shared by Atlanta, Toronto, and to some extent the Islanders...
- Amazingly enough, the Caps shots-per-game average has gone down during their losing streak, dropping from 36.9 shots per game to 32. It's good, but forgive me if I'm not dancing in the streaks just yet - anything over 31 is still pretty bad, and only 7 other teams are above that mark.

I'm starting a little streak of my own - 2 straight gameday previews without nicknames. I apologize and promise to return to this pointless exercise as soon as my cold medicine-induced haze subsides, hopefully by Thursday's game against Dallas.

Call me crazy, but I think the Caps are actually going to take this one - the frustration level has to be hitting a high level by now and it seems like some of the line combos Hanlon was toying with over the weekend are starting to gel. Plus, Semin (hopefully) returns to the lineup refreshed and ready to go. My prediction? The Caps over the Bolts in a 3-2 nailbiter that will narrowly miss overtime, depriving Tampa of that extra point and snapping the Caps out of it just in time for a very tough home stretch.

(I have no factual basis for this - let's just say I'm going with my gut. Or the purple haze. You decide.)


Netsrak said...

What, no player nicknames again?!? Just for that, I'll be bumping you down below Japers in the Official Game Day Thread's "Blog Round-Up" over on the Caps boards. :)

Oh, and yes, I too am bothered by the Lightning Ice Girls. Especially Meggan. She's got me quite bothered. And hot too. Hot and bothered, you could say. ;)

CapsChick said...

Oh, man...I've been demoted! I've got to kick the Dayquil and get back to my real job soon :(

Nicknames to reemerge for Thursday's game in honor of Halpern's return to DC, I promise!