Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Lightning

Washington Capitals (44-22-6, first in SE, third in EC)
Tampa Bay Lightning (23-32-15, last in SE, 14th in EC)

Perhaps when Tampa Bay owner and horror movie producer Oren Koules begins producing the next Saw movie, the plot should revolve around a coach having to turn the Lightning into winners in one season despite the fact that very few rebuilds can be successful in one year.

Sounds like a nightmare to me.

At the beginning of this season, the Bolts felt they could contend for the Southeast Division title despite a roster filled with aging veterans and a rookie who was entering the league with as much hype as Ovechkin and Crosby.

Now on the tail end of the season, the Bolts sit where many expected them to be, at the bottom hoping to pull another first overall pick.

While much of this pre-Cap has highlighted the doom and gloom of the Bolts season this year, a few bright spots are shining for Tampa. Since Barry Melrose's dismissal, Steven Stamkos has begun to blossom into a capable NHL forward and has 35 points on the year, likely to break 40 on the season. Martin St. Louis is still a force to be reckoned with scoring 71 points this year, and his linemate, Vincent Lecavalier, has 65 points.

Another bright spot is that Tampa's special teams aren't all that bad. They have the 18th-ranked power play (18.2%) and, believe it or not, their penalty kill is only two spots worse than the Caps. The Bolts PK is 23rd in the league (79.3), compared to the Caps 21st ranking (79.8).

After a dominating shutout victory in Sunrise, Florida, the Caps need to keep their focus. If the Caps play the way they did against the Panthers, chalk up another W and two points on the season.

The only problem is that this is one of "those" games that might be hard to get excited over. In every Caps and Bolts meeting this season, the Caps have had a victory margin of two or more, and the goals for totals have been high; four, seven and five in the last three games for the Caps.

Domination leads to slacking, and that's exactly what Boudreau needs to make sure doesn't happen.

For Tampa Bay, there isn't much incentive other than pride going into tonight's game. The season is done, and the owners are just hoping to renew season tickets and win the draft lottery. Although pride is a powerful emotion, and one that tends to lead to great victories when an opponent has no respect for your club despite how poor the season has been.

With the right moves and some smart development, Tampa Bay could return to its former glory, but hopefully Oren Koules and Len Barrie have learned their lesson -- you can't rebuild in one year.


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