Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Thrashers

I can't tell what's worse,
the actual jersey or the team in those awkward suits.

Washington Capitals (38-18-5 - first in SE - second in EC)
Atlanta Thrashers (22-33-6 - last in SE - 14th in EC)

Before the Capitals' abysmal effort against the Avalanche, Bruce Boudreau scolded a journalist for suggesting that the Capitals "play down" to opponents.

Here's his chance to redeem himself.

The Thrashers are second-to-last in the NHL, but bear in mind the gap between the Thrashers and the last place Islanders is eight points.

The source of the Thrashers' troubles comes in their lack of defense. Only nine Thrashers players have a positive plus-minus rating, and only three of those players have played more than 50 games.

With poor defense usually comes poor goaltending, and the Thrashers' three net-minders combine for a collective 3.44 goals allowed average. While the goalies may be shellacked by opponents, the Thrashers have a potent enough offense to stay competitive if they find themselves playing from behind. In their last five games, the Thrashers have scored 23 goals, which includes a 8-4 shootout with Anaheim which they won..

At the head of the Thrashers offense are two Russians, one of them named Kozlov! Ilya Kovalchuk was the subject of numerous trade rumors until the Thrashers named him the team captain. It's easy to see why he's their leader: he has 31 goals and 64 points on the season. Behind him is the "other" Kozlov in the league. Vyacheslav Kozlov has 18 goals and 34 assists for 54 points this season.

The Capitals seemingly blew their bout with the Flyers. After a strong start and domination in the first period, the Capitals began unraveling as the Flyers took control of the game and forced the Caps to play Flyers hockey. This simply can't happen if the Capitals want to go deep in the playoffs, but for now it's all about jockeying for posistion.

Boston is still within reach of the Capitals, but come the middle of March the Capitals might find themselves fighting to keep second place from the New Jersey Devils. If the Caps want to contend for the first place spot with Boston, they simply can't lose the games they are supposed to win. With all due respect to the Thrashers, the Capitals should win this one.

Isn't that what we said on Oct. 10 though?


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