Without a doubt, tonight's Caps/Panthers game is the premiere sporting event of the next week to be played in Miami. No? Oh well, I'll preview it anyway...
It's getting to be do or die time for the Caps. Assuming that the magic number to make the post-season is around 92 points (that's what it took last year in the East), the Caps would have to go something like 19-7-5 over their last 31 games to hit the big nine-two. Impossible? No. Difficult? Extremely.
Quite simply, if this team is going to make the playoffs, they need to win just about every game they "should" win and a bunch that they probably shouldn't. Tonight begins a stretch of five games - Florida, Pittsburgh, N.Y. Islanders, Boston and L.A. - that the Caps can win, if they play hard and smart for a full sixty minutes (the Panthers, Bruins and Kings all have fewer points in the standings than do the Caps). Unfortunately, "should wins" have been tough for the Caps lately, as the team is 1-5 in their last six against teams with losing records. But, as Alex Ovechkin said after a recent game against the Flyers, "History is history right now." Right.
The Caps' offense should get a boost from the return of Richard Zednik to the lineup. Zednik has been out since approximately November 1998 with a groin injury, but he's hot, what with goals in each of his last two games (and I'm sure that residual heat will carry over). Needless to say, the Caps will need to find some scoring from someone other than the new Goal Dust Twins if they're going to have much success in the coming weeks, and Zednik is one guy with the potential to pick up some of the scoring slack. Matt Bradley is also back with the team, but even if he plays Thursday night, he won't score (just a hunch).
The young defense continues to improve, but not without some speed bumps along the way. Jeff Schultz had another strong game against Ottawa, and Mike Green had one of his better games in recent weeks in Canada's capital city as well. How well those two play against the Cats may go a long way towards determining whether or not the Caps can leave South Beach with two points.
Finally, here's an odd stat for you - the Caps are 3-3-0 and 2-2-0 against divisional rivals Carolina and Florida, respectively, and in each of those ten games the final margin of victory was at least three goals. Huh.
Be sure to stop by SeSo throughout the day for more pregame thoughts and other assorted idiocy.
Thread of the Day:
- Newsflash! There's actually an article in a Canadian paper about a Cap not named
AlexOvechkin (gasp!). Hell of a picture they used, too.
- Hart: Andrew Raycroft (W, 37 saves on 38 shots against)
- Ross: Fernando Pisani (3 points)
- Norris: Ian White (A, +1, 4 SOG, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot)
- Vezina: Andrew Raycroft (see above)
- Richard: Raffi Torres (2G)
- Calder: Gilbert Brule (A, +1, 2 SOG, 1 hit, 2 blocked shots)
- Aiken: Ty Conklin (L, 5 goals allowed on 37 shots against)