Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Avalanche

Best back of goalie helmet ever or best back of goalie helmet ever?

Washington Capitals - 37-16-5 - first in SE, second in EC
vs. Colorado Avalanche - 27-30-1 - last in NE, tied-last in WC

All eyes are on this game. There's only one question on thousands of hockey fans' minds.

What will Ovechkin do next?

While Ovechkin's antics will likely be the main storyline of this East-meets-West clash, what might get lost in the Ovie hub-bub is that this is Jose Theodore's big night.

Jose had a shaky exit from the Avalanche in 2008. After starting off poorly in the 07-08 season and nearly losing his starting job to backup Peter Budaj, Theodore redeemed himself with a strong second half of the season and postseason.

What happened after the season ended and the Avs went for some "r-and-r" goes something like this. Jose wanted to stay, but the Avs didn't feel he was worth as much as he wanted. When Huet left for Chicago, Jose swooped in and landed the starting job here. Turns out the difference between Washington and Colorado was one million bucks.

Do you think the Avalanche would mind that extra one million at this point?

The Avs are tied for last in the Western Conference, but keep in mind, the gap between last and eighth is only seven points. Peter Dubaj, Jose's successor, has lost three straight, allowing 10 goals in those games. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw backup Andrew Raycroft guarding the net; he's on a two-game win streak and the Avs will likely play the hot hand.

Of course, if the Capitals fall victim to bad habits, like playing "down" to their opponent, they'll likely skate off the ice as losers. This is an Avalanche team that is balancing on the thin line of "playoff contender" and "lottery pick," so you can expect the Avs to claw and scratch for every point they can possibly get, no matter how good their opponent is.

But they'll have to do it without Paul Stastny. The 23-year-old center was a highlight for the Avalanche this season, but injuries have kept him off the ice since Dec. 23. With only 34 games played, Stansty is ranked fourth on the team in points. No single player is carrying the load for the Avs, but that's also the reason they have one of the worst goals-for totals (159). For even more perspective on the Avalanches' scoring woes, consider this; Alex Ovechkin has double the amount of goals that the Avs goals leader Milan Hedjuk has (21).

This isn't just a revenge game for Jose Theodore, it's also one for...Brian Willsie. You remember him right? He makes his return to Verizon Center tonight, and it will his first game against his former team.

All kidding aside, the Capitals need smart, disciplined play (looking at you, penalty kill), and they'll want to use the emotional energy from Jose's big night to add a W to the record.

Not the Paul we were looking for...
We searched Paul Stastny on YouTube. Only videos of Paul Stanley from KISS came up. We figured we'd roll with it, especially since one of them was hockey themed.

Why didn't we get one...
Is this the year they regret not signing Theodore? Yup.


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