Last year, the season series between the Caps and the Lightning was much closer than the standings would indicate. Each team scored 32 goals. Four of the games were won by a single goal, with two of them decided (for the bad guys) in shootouts. But the Bolts left with two points in six of the eight games, despite performances of better than a point-per-game from Alexander Semin (nine goals, 13 points in eight games) and Alexander Ovechkin (nine in eight games). For what it's worth, Michael Nylander (six points in four games) also feasted on Tampa 'tending in 2006-07.
On the flip side of that coin, Olie Kolzig struggled against the Bolts last year (2-4-0, 3.88, .887), due in large (or small, as the case may be) part to the Caps' inability to stop Vinny Lecavalier (nine goals, 16 points in eight games) and Marty St. Louis (six goals, 12 points in eight games). The Caps were, however, able to hold Doug Janik to just one assist in six games.
But enough about last year, let's talk about this year. The Bolts have yet to win a road game or lose a home game en route to a 4-2-0 record in the early going. Their goaltending has been surprisingly decent (though neither goalie's save percentage is above the .900 Mendoza Line), their offense is fourth in the League in goals per game and their top line is in mid-season form already, with the "other" Vinny - Vinny Prospal - kicking in seven goals in eight games. Other Bolts of note include Brad Richards (six points in six games) and Paul Ranger, a blueliner who is really coming into his own in Dan Boyle's absence. Chris Gratton, in his third tour of duty in Tampa, also promises to be a pain in the ass centering the third line.
As I said the other day, if the Caps come out and play as hard as they did Saturday night, they'll win this game and quite a few more. And if Alex Semin provides the kind of shot in the arm of which he's capable and the re-revamped power play starts clicking, tonight could be the start of another win streak.
Update: Marc Denis will be getting his first start of the season tonight.
Why The Lightning Will Win:
"The Bolts will beat the Capitals based on the letters M, V and P -- standing for the Lightning's top line: *M*artin St. Louis, *V*incent Lecavalier and Vaclav *P*rospal. Oh, and maybe Olaf Kolzig will be out with a hangnail or something? One can hope..." - BoltsmagLast week we referred you to a look at who's drawing penalties and now the brilliant Forechecker has decided to keep his list regularly updated and publicly available. Bookmark it.... A pair of Caps prospects, Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault, will be representing the QMJHL in a pair of games between their League's best and a team of Russian juniors.... More mid-week power rankings, with the Caps coming in at 22nd and 23rd.... Did J.J. and Scottie Go-Go just have their first fight?... Mayor McCheese gives Sid the cold shoulder.... Finally, in case you missed (or ignored) it, the WTimes ran a story yesterday about the Caps and their bloggers (Keeley's got beautiful hands, doesn't he?), and Ted Leonsis posted a follow-up that's worth checking out if you're into the whole bloggers blogging about blogging bloggers thing, as is Caps Nut's take (hey, we report - you decide).
"The Bolts WILL beat the Caps simply because they are due to get their 1st road win of the season. Oh and because we have more fire power... Marty, Vinny, Prospal, Richads... Holmer gets a chance to bounce back on the road after two 4 goal debacles in Miami and Boston. He looked solid at home against Atlanta, but who doesn't these days. Look for the MVP line, Prospal's in a contract year and already has 7 goals, to outscore Alex the Great, and bring home another division win to sunny, and ridiculously hot Florida." - Bolts Blog
- Hart: Paul Kariya (G, 3A, +1, 2 SOG in 4-2 win)
- Ross: Pat Kane, Paul Kariya (4 points each)
- Norris: Rob Blake (2A, +2, 2 SOG, 2 blocked shots)
- Vezina: Marc-Andre Fleury (36-save shutout win)
- Richard: Pat Kane, Brad Boyes, Michael Cammalleri, Rick Nash, Jiri Novotny (2G each)
- Calder: Pat Kane (2G, 2A, +2, 2 SOG)
- Aiken: Chris Mason (L, 4 goals allowed on 19 shots against in just 30:01 of work)