Ah, the Southeast Division.
If the Caps were in the Atlantic and facing the division leader tonight, a loss would drop them to eleven points out of first place. In the Pacific, a similar hypothetical would find them an even dozen points out of the top spot. In the Northeast, another loss would have the Caps sitting in the division's basement.
But not in the Southeast, baby. With a loss tonight, the Caps would be a half-dozen points out of first place, and with a win? Second place, just one win out of first.
For all the mediocrity we're seen out of the Caps so far this year - an MVP scoring champ who can't score, a high-priced goalie who can't stop pucks, a Calder Trophy finalist who couldn't find the net with a map and a compass, a defense that has collectively regressed since last Spring's run to the playoffs, and so on and so on - the Caps are still right there, regardless of tonight's result.
That is, of course, not to say that this evening's match-up with the 'Canes at the VC is meaningless, because it is anything but. It is, after all, the Hurricanes, and a four-point swing in October could be the difference between the playoffs and the links in early April - just ask them.
Carolina comes into the game scoring in bunches, but also allowing plenty of goals (especially lately, allowing four goals to Toronto in each of their last two games). They're 5-1-1 against the Eastern Conference, 5-1-2 on the road (let's hope they leave the bandwagon down in Raleigh), and 2-0-0 within our beloved Southeast Division. They've been good five-on-five, but in the lower-middle of the pack with a man (or two) advantage or disadvantage. Bottom line: these are the Carolina Hurricanes. You know them - always injured, always diving, always a tough out (and for more from their side of things, head over to CanesCountry).
The Caps will turn to their number two netminder (yes, he's still number two) tonight, and hope he can replicate his 42-save effort of Tuesday night. But if he doesn't, he doesn't - as Bruce Boudreau said yesterday, "If Brent goes in and is crappy tomorrow, then obviously I am going to use [Theodore] Saturday against the Rangers."
See? No drama. No "must-win" vibe. No real sense of urgency (whether one is needed yet or need be projected in any case is debatable).
And therein, perhaps, lies the problem. Because while everyone knows that Alex Ovechkin will score more than the 14 goals for which he's currently on pace, many of this team's issues are looming larger every day... and time's a-wastin'.
When Rod Brind'Amour and Sergei Fedorov first played against one another in an NHL game, Bruce Boudreau was en route to a 40-goal/120-point season in the IHL, Glen Hanlon was one of Fedorov's teammates and Karl Alzner (remember him?) had just turned two-years-old. Chris Chelios, mind you, was in his eighth season in the League.... The Caps have more hat tricks (8) against Carolina/Hartford than against any other team in the League other than Philly (9), but Alex Semin (who has scored more goals against the 'Canes (13) than he has against any other team in the League) is the only current Cap to turn the trick against the 'Canes as a Cap (did somebody say Russian hat trick?).
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
The boys at The PensBlog will no doubt love to hear about Semin and Alex Ovechkin being "young and passionate" pillow fighters.... This is what passes for journalism in certain Russian circles.... In case you're wondering where the Caps stayed while in Buffalo last weekend, here's a picture.... Puck Daddy looks at the brawler bargains around the League. Colton Orr? The Donald is not impressed.... The dude whose nut Mike Green nearly exploded in the playoffs last season is doing well for himself over in Switzerland.... An old timey Cap is going to be erased from the record books this weekend. Thanks for sucking, Olli Jokinen!... Caps prospect Eric Mestery has been traded (but is still Caps property).... Finally, you've gotta love HFBoards when it hooks you up with something like this (only 0:38 for me).
A minute three.
54 seconds. Very funny! Who thinks this crap up?!
I too made it 54 seconds. Peerless must be a pretty wily guy.
1:06; What's up now? You wanna battle me? How bout you? You looking at me?
1:06 as well. maybe i should go train fighting a rabid dog and/or bear
Is it just me or does it sound to me like Boudreau's hoping on some level that Johnson screws up, so he's got an excuse to start Theodore?
Its pretty bad when stupid fans are second guessing the Jack Adams winner.
Here is what I'd do :)
Ovie, Feds, Semin
Flash, Nylander, Laich
Kozlov, Backstrom, Clark
Jurcina, Erskine (I don't mind them)
Johnson (until Theo can stop a puck in practice)
I'd also get Ovie out of the crease on the power play and put him somewhere he can shoot. WTF!?
Believe it or not, this IS a must game for the Caps because the schedule says it is. If the Caps lose, they'll be six points behind with Carolina playing 13 out of their next 17 games are at home. The Caps meanwhile will play only 8 out their next 17 at home, including a tough five game road trip. If they lose this game, they could easily be 12-16 points out of first come Dec. 7th. Which by the way, would be about where they were last year at that point in the schedule. And by the way, I'd last 60 seconds. I bet that woman who ran a mile with the rabid fox hanging on to her arm would do a lot better.
@b.orr4: Standings entirely aside, I think it's a must-win game from a momentum perspective. Frankly, I think we really need to win all of the next three, not just from a standings perspective, but to build momentum for road trips and tough games.
One minute sixteen seconds...
I don't understand why Bruce is going to all the trouble to tell us Jose is still the no. 1... Seems like it might not be the most motivational thing for Johnny, and if Bruce came out and told him he sucked, maybe, just maybe, Jose would play better. But why change anything when 'he's still the number one guy'?
Especially given that Theodore has had motivation issues before...
@ M: Bruce is telling everyone that Jose's still the #1 guy because he's the $4.5m goalie who's played less than a month with the team. If he came out and said, "Johnny's #1," he's throwing GMGM under the bus. So instead it's "We're going with the hot hand." Read into it what you like.
And why am I such a pussy? 38 seconds? Really?
38 seconds, but I'm a girl.
Let's see some scoring tonight, please.
One minute six.
Don't forget to make your picks, JP. You missed the last game & let a brother catch up.
1 minute 26 seconds
I think it's safe to say that GMGM is having some sleepless nights by not overpaying for Cristobal.
First goal on first shot in 3 games; 9 goals against in first/last minute of a period;
32nd in save percentage.
This is criminal. I'm sure GMGM would welcome an under-the-bus-throwing for some decent goal tending. I hate to say it but this is no improvement on Olie. Yeesh.
1 minute 22 seconds.
I wrestled in high school, so maybe that question helped.
@Shaggy: I doubt it. They're already barely under the cap with no flexibility to make moves. Add on $1.1 million to the payroll (the difference between Huet's and JT's contract) and that means you have to take another guy off the active roster. Plus, with the four year committment to Huet vs the two years to JT, where would that leave Varlamov? When GM decided to bring everyone back (which we were all screaming for) his hands were tied. And frankly, if anyone's rethinking Huet's contract, it's probably Chicago. As I mentioned before, Theodore started out very slowly last year and then came on like gangbusters. Let's see what November brings before we scream off with his head. I don't hear anyone demanding we release our other Hart winner because he's had a miserable start.
per Tarik the Russian line is in effect tonight.
i think the Flash-Nyles-Laich line will do just fine as well.
Backis needs this little slap in the face, me thinks.
minute 19 before I get my other arm torn off...beauty!
where the hell is double O???
1 minute 19 secs, but the test doesn't take into account my natural pain killer that's always present in my body: alcohol.
1:25. I'll punch the raptor in his stupid face. At least I say that now.
Signing Huet for 3 years would have been ok at his original asking price. Probably would have meant we would not have Fedorov right now though. Signing him at the money Chicago threw his way would have been a mistake.
Caps will be up for the 'Canes tonight I think. AO should "break out" as well.
Congratulations! You could survive for 1 minute, 3 seconds!
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