I’d like to preface this gameday preview by saying a few things that have been on my mind over the last few days.
I got to a point recently where I found my faith shaken a bit by this team that I have held so close for so long. It gets exhausting to talk about the Caps, hope for the best night in and night out only to see yet another game where they simply don’t show up. It’s these games, games that are missing the work ethic and persistence for which the Caps have become known, that really start to wear on you as a fan. I still believe in the team’s rebuilding plan and I think the core group we have now is a good foundation for what could someday be a great franchise. But Saturday’s loss to the Islanders was kind of a last straw for me and I needed a little bit of time away from the Caps, away from the Cheap Seats, to refresh my mind and spirit.
And so after a little time on the bench, I return with what is hopefully a better outlook for the last part of the campaign. We turn our sights now not to the postseason, but to the offseason and to the next season. The Caps have 16 games remaining, and save for the final two matchups with Buffalo, all come against teams either clinging to or within striking distance of a playoff spot. So the Caps have a chance to put a major dent in some teams’ playoff hopes, including some of our most hated rivals. As Caps fans, the only thing we can do now is take it game by game. If they lose a bad game one night, we have to take a deep breath and look to the next one, because when points don’t matter it becomes about holding your head high and standing by your team.
I’ll be there cheering them on to the very end, with an eye to that eternal promise – next year.
Who: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Where: Air Canada Centre
40 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M5J 2X2
When: Tuesday, March 6, 7:30 pm
Broadcast Info: CSN, WTNT 570 AM; Leafs TV, AM 640
Globe and Mail
2006-07 Standings: Caps 24-30-12, 60 points – 5th in division, 14th in conference; Maple Leafs 31-26-9, 71 points – 4th in division, 10th in conference
2006-07 Season Series: Caps 1-1-0, Maple Leafs 1-1-0
Last Game: December 23 in Toronto, Caps won 3-2
- Both teams came into this one with banged-up lineups and on the heels of two game losing streaks. So the first period played much as you would have expected, with both teams playing tight, tentative hockey.
- The second period, however, saw the Caps come out firing, as they scored three goals on three consecutive power plays. Ovechkin, Semin and Zubrus all combined to make Toronto pay for its lack of discipline, with Zubie’s goal probably one of the prettiest he’s scored all year, if not ever. All three finished the evening with a goal and an assist.
- It wouldn’t be a Caps game if they didn’t blow a lead of some kind, and that’s exactly what happened. Sundin scored on a penalty shot, then scored again 14 seconds later to cut the Caps lead to two.
- That would be as close as the Leafs would get, though, as Hanlon called a timeout to settle down the team and Brashear then took on Belak to keep things calm.
- The Caps made things interesting as Zubrus took a hooking penalty late in the third. Kolzig came up big to give the Caps the win and cap off a 35 save performance, which also included an assist on Ovechkin’s goal.
Things to Look for:
- The Caps are coming off what had to be one of their worst performances of the season, a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Islanders. They need to bounce back by playing the role of spoiler against the Leafs, who are just 2 points out of the playoffs right now. And if they happen to embarrass the Leafs in front of their home crowd, well...the Habs fan in me would certainly be grateful.
- Green has been recalled from Hershey, so I would guess that Muir will sit out tonight’s game. At least I hope so.
- Apparently Chris Clark’s shoulder had healed enough for him to play but he ended up not making the trip due to illness. It could be another rough game without Clarkie in the lineup – the Caps seem to be missing that spark when he’s not in uniform.
- Ovechkin is back and racking up the points, picking up 5 goals and 5 assists in his last 5 games. Now if everyone else could score, that would be great.
- The Caps are, get this, the coldest team in the league over the last 10 games, having won only one game during that stretch. Phoenix, Chicago and Edmonton have two wins, while Philly and San Jose have three. It’s nice to be number 1 at something, though, isn’t it?
- After a fairly strong start on the heels of Olie’s injury, Brent Johnson has looked a little shaky lately. He’s still making some good stops but a few dribblers have cost the Caps. If the defense doesn’t tighten up in front of him, the Caps could be in for another long night. [Update: Word is that Cassivi may get the start...] [Update #2: Nope. Never mind...] [Update #3: Yup. I was right the first time.]
- The Leafs are missing some of their stalwart defensemen, with Kaberle sustaining a concussion after a brutal Janssen hit and Kubina out with a fractured finger. Their rookies will have to fill the void, so the Caps need to jump on them early and force them to make youthful mistakes. You know, like the ones the Caps usually make.
- Am I the only one who has been impressed with Brian Sutherby’s play lately? Yes? Okay.
- Darcy Tucker is back. Maybe Green will lay him out again.
8-Alex “Hot Hands” Ovechkin, 24-Kris “Son of a” Beech, 28-Alexander “Pass...PASS!” Semin
21-Brooks “That’s the Way I” Laich “It”, 13-Jiri “Lucky #13” Novotny, 43-Tomas “Like Butter” Fleischmann
27-Ben “Saved from Kansas City” Clymer, 16-Brian “Hot Hands, Part Deux” Sutherby, 10-Matt “the Human Bruise” Bradley
87-Donald “Witt is a Wuss” Brashear, 39-Alexandre “Travelin’ Man” Giroux
23-Milan “Jurcy” Jurcina, 26-Shaone “Accurate Point Shot” Morrisonn
2-Brian “Inaccurate Point Shot” Pothier, 55-Jeff “Invisible” Schultz
4-John “Wrong Side of the Rock” Erskine, 44-Steve “Healthy Scratch” Eminger
52-Mike “Welcome Back!” Green
1-Brent “the Beleaguered” Johnson, 35-Frederic “2x the Savior” Cassivi
Possible Lineup for the Leafs
33-Bates “Motel” Battaglia, 13-Mats “Captain Mats” Sundin, 80-Nik “I’ll Buy a C” Antropov
23-“Sexy” Alexei Ponikarovsky, 94-Yanic “Three Times Evil” Perreault, 21-John “Fireman’s” Pohl
7-Ian White “With Fear”, 24-Bryan “Turtle” McCabe
8-Carlo "Insert Funny Name Here" Colaiacovo, 25-Hal “Lady Byng” Gill
1-Andrew Raaaaaaaaaaaaycroft, 30-Jean-Sebastian “Your Fly is” Aubin