The Caps and tonight's opponents, the Minnesota Wild, really aren't all that different. Both teams are in second place in their Division. Each team has a Ni(c)klas Backstrom, a blueliner named Schultz and one of the League's most talented goal scorers. Um... both teams play in the NHL.... neither has won a Cup...
The fact of the matter is that the Caps and Wild actually are about as different as two teams can be in today's NHL. The Caps are an up tempo, run-and-gun squad while Jacques Lemaire's Wild play a trapping style and wait for their opponents to make mistakes. And unlike the Caps, who have lost four of the last five games in which they had a lead at any point, the Wild take a lead and go and hide with it - Minny has the League's best winning percentage when scoring first and is 25-0-1 when leading after two periods.
Think that first goal is going to be big tonight?
Minnesota comes into tonight's game having lost three straight and scoring only three times along the way, but with dynamic offensive players like Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra, Brian Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (assuming they don't trade him for an even more dynamic - and familiar - offensive player during the day) and a good power play, they can drop four or five in a hurry on an unsuspecting team that isn't prepared.
The Caps and Wild have played six times since Minny's latest NHL club entered the League in 2000, and the Wild have won five times, including a 3-2 shootout win last season. But only once has a game between the two teams been decided by more than a single goal, and only twice have more than three goals been scored in any one game in the series. To top it off, Minnesota is one of just four teams in the NHL against whom Alex Ovechkin does not yet have a goal (one assist in one game) and the Caps are one of only two teams against whom Gaborik has never lit the lamp (one single assist in six career games). How 'bout that? Oh, and in case you're wondering, Donald Brashear and Wild uberthug Derek Boogaard have fought once in the past, but with the Boogie Man on the IR, the two won't be renewing acquaintances tonight.
So expect another low-scoring affair and let's hope that the Caps' have the better of the Backstroms and the better of the bounces tonight - they'll probably need both in order to win.
Why The Wild Will Win:
"The Minnesota Wild will defeat the Washington Capitals because they have greater scoring depth and play a defensive system that is perfect to counter attack an offensively aggressive Capitals squad. Not to mention, the Wild currently have much more to lose and know they cannot afford to drop non-Conference games in another ultra-tight Western Conference." - The State of Hockey NewsElsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Time change for the March 9 Pens game.... Insert Sidney Crosby joke here.... One year ago today it was Trade Deadline Day Eve, but the Caps got into the act early, trading Richard Zednik and Lawrence Nycholat, which we discussed, as well as the previous day's Caps/Devils game, and two years ago today we had the opportunity to gloat and use one of our favorite pictures. Good times.
- Hart: Darcy Tucker (2G, A, +1, 4 SOG, 3 hits, 5 BkS)
- Ross: Matt Stajan, Darcy Tucker (3 points each)
- Norris: Jaroslav Spacek (2A, +3)
- Vezina: Vesa Toskala (31-save shutout win)
- Richard: Darcy Tucker (2G)
- Calder: Clarke MacArthur (G, 3 SOG, +3)
- Aiken: Ray Emery (L, 5 goals allowed on 21 shots against in two periods of work)