Monday, March 16, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Panthers

Washington Capitals (43-22-6, first in SE, third in EC)
Florida Panthers (34-25-10, third in SE, ninth in EC)

They were fast, furious and determined. They played like a team leading the division by 30 points, and their opponent played like a team in the "John Tavares" lottery. But enough about the Thrashers. Let's just forget that the Capitals ever played that game and put it far behind us.

The Thrashers seem to be the one team this season that the Capitals are having leagues of trouble against on the road. The last Caps game in Atlanta was eerily similar, a 7-4 loss that was just as forgettable as this stinker. The series is sitting at 2-2, but in games with the Thrashers the Caps have allowed at least three goals each in those matchups.

I'm writing this after the Thrashers game so no word yet on whether Mike Green will be back in the lineup, but did the Caps ever miss him last night. The power play looked lost, and when you expected Mike Green to swoop in for a goal we saw the puck go sailing to our defensive zone instead.

The Keystone Caps were back, for one night only we hope.

To the offense's credit, they did manage to barrage Kari Lehtonen with 50 shots, and the Caps hit the pipe three times, but Lehtonen played an amazing game and Thrashers earned their two points.

So what do you do when you fall down? You get back up. Perhaps the only good to come out of the Thrashers game was that the loss was not to a division rival who needs those two points for a playoff slot.

Speaking of two points, tonight's game with the Panthers is likely to be another dogfight like Saturday's bout with the Canes was. The Panthers, currently sitting at ninth and out of the playoffs, haven't won a full two points since March 7. With Carolina keeping pace with them, it could very well come down to one point between a playoff spot and golf in April.

Just like the Thrashers, the Panthers are not a team the Capitals would want to take it easy on. The Panthers have the seventh best penalty kill in the league (82.8) and have 10 players with 30 points or more. They also have one of the best goalie tandems in the league in Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson, both with plus .920 save percentages.

The Caps usually rebound after horrible efforts, but the Panthers are not going to make it easy to return to form, especially with two crucial points on the line.


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