[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]
The Caps' Conference-leading offense will be put to the test tonight as Martin Brodeur (he of the 1.23 GAA and .944 save percentage) and the Devils visit the VC.
Brodeur's mastery of the Caps, while by no means exclusive to the boys from D.C., of course, is substantial - the Quebecer is 32-12-0/2.11/.913 against them in his career, including 2-1-0/2.28/.923 in 2007-08 (and he's had Number Eight's number, too - Alex Ovechkin has just three goals in 12 games against Jersey).
And guess what? In the early goings this season, the Devils are winning games but not scoring goals (shocking, I know). Somehow Jersey is 3-1, despite having scored only six goals and sporting a woeful 14.3% power play efficiency, which makes them the perfect team for Jose Theodore to face to try to gain a bit more confidence before heading out for a Western Conference road trip.
What's that you say? Brent Johnson's getting the start? Well, I'm not the reigning Jack Adams winner, so I'll defer to Gabby, but this sure seemed to me like a good spot in which to play your number one netminder... which brings us to a new feature - the Japers' Rink JOdometer, an index of our collective confidence in JT60 with a range set between the terrible - his two-team 2005-06 season - on the left and the exceptional - his Hart and Vezina season of 2001-02 - on the right:
Am I being too kind? Too harsh? Frankly, I think he's been more or less "good enough" overall (and trending upwards), with the obvious exception of the Atlanta game, hence the left-of-center rating.
Anyway, back to tonight's game, it's yet another good early season test, chock full of questions: Will the Caps show up for the first period? Which will win out - the Devils' meager power play or the Caps' poor PK? Will Sergei Fedorov seek vengeance on Jersey for cutting his baby bro? Will Dainius Zubrus do anything that makes us miss him? Most importantly, of course - will the Caps leave for a three-game road trip (and a five-of-six away from home stretch) at 4-1 with four wins in a row, or at 3-2 with a long flight to Calgary to think about it? Answers coming soon.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Hey, look - the WaPo knows we want more coverage (so that means it's not neglect, but rather a concerted effort to screw us).... ESPN.com's Power Rankings came out the other day and the Caps are numero ocho.... In case you missed it, Michal Neuvirth has been assigned to South Carolina of the ECHL.... There was a time when I thought that a headline like this would make me smile. But it doesn't.