From Ducks to Flyers to flightless foul, the Caps welcome the Penguins to the Verizon Center for tonight's much-anticipated and overly-hyped matchup.
After seeing their four-game win streak snapped in a big way on Friday night, the Caps bounced back to win one of those "should win" games at Philly on Saturday in what was visitors' third game in four nights. Tonight's game will again be the third in four nights for the Caps, who will then get a well-deserved break until Friday (when they will travel to Atlanta to face the Thrashers in another much-anticipated and sure-to-be-overly-hyped matchup).
Back to the task at hand, the Caps and Pens both come into tonight's game with more wins than regulation losses, but both have surrendered more goals than they've scored thus far (I guess when these teams lose, they lose big). And while the media would have you believe that this is a matchup of young superstars, it's really a matchup of two teams who are at different stages in their respective rebuilding processes. The Pens - who have seemingly been rebuilding forever - are still primarily a two-man team. They only have two double-digit goal scorers (I just guaranteed a Mark Recchi hat trick tonight, didn't I?), and only three forwards with more than fifteen points. But help is on the way for the Pens, we're told, as it has been for years.
The Caps, on the other hand, have developed the kind of depth and secondary scoring that is the hallmark of the League's more successful teams. They have five double-digit goal scorers, all of whom have at least 17 points. That's the same number of double-digit goal scorers as Buffalo and Anaheim have and two more than Atlanta and Ottawa have (those are the four teams in the League with 100+ goals scored). And with Olie Kolzig in net, the Caps seemed poised to make a serious run at this year's playoffs. Add a puck-moving d-man and it's a lock. Add a second-line center and it's a team that can do some real damage come April.
So what do I expect tonight? If the Caps can stay hungry and play disciplined hockey, they should win. If they come out flat or take too many penalties, the Crosby Show could be a painful one to watch. But the Caps haven't lost a "should win" in weeks (probably the last being the home game against the Bruins), so there's no reason to expect them to drop one tonight. At the very least, the expectations that are emerging surrounding this team are a great indicator of successes yet to come.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
- ESPN.com's Scott Burnside has more on the Caps' emergence.
- Thanks to DK for the pointer to this article on some AO media doings.
- Hart: Kevin Weekes (W, 34 saves on 35 shots against in 2-1 win)
- Ross: Ron Hainsey (3 points)
- Norris: Ron Hainsey (GWG, 2A, +1, 4 blocked shots)
- Vezina: Kevin Weekes (W, 34 saves on 35 shots against)
- Richard: Dan Fritsche, Rick Nash (2G each)
- Calder: Lasse Kukkonen (A, +1)
- Aiken: Martin Gerber (L, 4 goals against on 13 shots in 27:08 of work versus Columbus)