The Caps are off on their annual Western swing, this time with four stops in the Northwest Division (Colorado, Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary). In case you're wondering, that's four teams with a combined record of 17-13-3. And as the team heads out, they're at least talking a good game:
"Guys are looking at it as a challenge," [Olie] Kolzig added. "We're going to hockey cities. We have to embrace the environment rather than be intimidated by it."Uh huh.
"Even though we have three games in four nights, [motivation] won't be a problem because a lot of guys will be playing in front of friends and family," [Matt] Pettinger said. "Guys are going to be excited."Now, to me when these Caps are challenged and excited, it usually means you can expect lots of penalties. But we'll see. Hopefully Pettinger's return provides a spark, the team plays disciplined hockey and the goalies stand on their heads. If not, the Caps may come back to D.C. in bad shape.
First stop, Colorado (and old friends Ken Klee and Andrew Brunette), where the 4-3-2 Avs no longer sell out all of their home games, but still have two lines that can put up goals in bunches (the team is 8th in the NHL in goals per game). And while Colorado has some ancient players (Joe Sakic and Pierre Turgeon each celebrated his 83rd birthday Monday), youth is being served there as well by the likes of Marek Svatos, Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny. The Avs goaltending is suspect (Jose Theodore's GAA is nearly four and his save percentage is on the wrong side of .880 - ouch), and Caps fans can expect to perhaps see Peter Budaj (he of the 2.75 career GAA) between the pipes Wednesday night.
Like I said, the key word for this road trip is discipline. If they play smart and under control, the Caps will be in every game. If not, a team like the Avs can hang a touchdown on them in no time.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
- Let me preface this by saying that Evgeni Malkin's goal last night was a thing of beauty, displaying the kid's speed, size, strength and skill wonderfully. That said, if John Vanbiesbrouck (I believe he was doing the color for Versus last night) uttered the phrase "shades of Mario Lemiuex" one more time, I would have thrown a hammer through my TV screen. We get it - Malkin and Sidney Crosby are like Gretzky and Messier, except good. Enough.
- Speaking of the Pens game, Eric has to be ecstatic that he's no longer the goofiest-looking Staal in the NHL (sadly, that picture doesn't do Jordy's goofiness justice).
- I've been told that the only way to get a bad song out of your head is to pass it on to someone else. So here's hoping that one of you can rid me of the god-awful "That's All" by Phil Collins. You know it. You hate it. And now it's yours.
- Hart: Evgeni Malkin (G, A, +2, 5 SOG, cured cancer, solved world hunger, brought peace to the Middle East)
- Ross: 14 players tied with 2 points each
- Norris: Andrej Meszaros (G, A, +3, 6 hits, 2 blocked shots)
- Vezina: Miikka Kiprusoff (W, 26 saves on 27 shots against)
- Richard: 21 players tied with 1G each
- Calder: Evgeni Malkin (phenomenal G, A, +2, 5 SOG)
- Aiken: Andrew Raycroft (L, 5 goals allowed on 21 shots against in 40 minutes of work)