This might be the first time I am glad the Capitals haven't played in three days. After some much needed rest, the Caps will set out on a grueling schedule coming into the holidays, and it doesn't end there.
The Islanders are becoming a punchline amongst the Atlantic Division. The Penguins handed the Isles a slice of "ass-kicking-pie" with a 9-2 win, and currently the Isles are keeping pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning for a lottery pick.
The Isles have yet to win a game in December, while the Capitals have yet to lose a game when Alexander Semin has been in the lineup recently (8-0-0). The Caps have been red-hot and Semin's magic hands (and handshakes) lead the charge.
Will the Isles end their slump with a win at home over the Caps? Can the Capitals avoid more injuries, keep the hands hot and continue to pull away in the Southeast?
Let's get to it.
Washington Capitals (18-10-3, last game 2-1 win over Montreal)
New York Islanders (10-18-2, last game 3-1 loss to Colombus)
The story so far...
The Capitals got the boost they needed when Alexander Semin, Tom Poti, Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green returned to the lineup. Riding a three-game win streak, the Capitals have firmly cemented themselves atop the Southeast Division. Boudreau's eyes now turn to the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. Seeking to reach the top of the East, the Caps will need to win the games they're supposed to win and dig deep on the road.
WSH: Milan Jurcina
Juice isn't the same defenseman he was 10 games ago. Since his pairing with Karl Alzner, Jurcina has transformed from a delay-of-game-committing stiff to one-part of the Capitals' best defensive pairing. On top of that, he's picked up a few goals, including the game-winner in Toronto. The Islanders present a unique situation. This is a team the Capitals should beat, but, the way you lose to those teams is lazy play. Jurcina knows a thing or two about lazy play (delay-of-game) and tonight is a great game to "come out" and be a dominate defender, not a sloppy one.
NYI: Doug Weight
Sitting at four points shy of 1,000 career points, Weight won't get another chance to reach the milestone at home until the 23rd. Great players tend to have great games when nearing a milestone, and Weight is no exception. If the Capitals get lazy, or flat out don't show up to play, Weight will be the man to punish them. You can't count the Islanders out and with Weight so close to a historic mark the Caps need to frustrate him early so he can't get rolling.
Games of Importance
Montreal at Carolina - Sitting eight points behind the Caps, Paul Maurice and the Canes need every point they can get. Good thing the Capitals left Montreal fuming after Nylander's fluke-tastic goal.
Speaking of flukes...
The Islanders have had some rotten luck as of late. Although that's not to say they haven't had any this season.
Going with the hot hand
Brent Johnson will get the start in goal with Varlamov backing him up. While I personally think Varlamov deserves one more start, allowing more time for Theo and Johnny to heal, the decision is not a total surprise. Johnson recorded his first win against the Islanders earlier this month posting a .931 save percentage. Johnson's play has sparked a debate over at Japer's Rink about who is the team's MVP so far. The Kremlin's MVP of the season? None other than Alex Semin.
Here's a stat to munch on. The Capitals have only 10 players in the negatives in terms of plus-minus. Four of those players are call-ups. One of them is tied for third in goals scored on the team (Flash). While there are seven players sitting at even, the stat does show that the team as a whole is playing well, not just the S.O.B. line.
Aside for the Capitals running on a three-game win streak, they also have only allowed one goal in each of those past three meetings. The Capitals allowed only one goal to Toronto, bringing the monthly total one-goal games to four. In the seven games so far this December, the Caps have only allowed 12 goals.
The Caps power play remains red hot, as the Capitals have been shooting with 33% efficiency. The Caps have scored on six of the 18 power plays given over the last four games. Couple that with the fact that the Caps penalty kill hasn't given up a goal since Dec. 6 against Toronto, and you've got some extra-special teams.
P.S.A on Intermission
Following in the style of Brendan Witt's "How to check," comes this P.S.A from Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais on what to do doing intermission.
I know what to do...Text Capitals to 81812 10 times during both intermissions!
The Tampa Bay Lightning are. The Bolts are currently seeking legal action after former coach Barry Melrose said "I hope [the Lightning] don't win anymore games this year." This turn of events begs the question, what will movie-producer/Tampa co-owner Oren Koules win first? An Oscar or a Stanley Cup? Our money is on a Razzie.
LET'S GO CAPS!