Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Predators

"You see Billy, the Wings suck because we got placed in their division and it's been killing us since we joined the league."

Washington Capitals (40-21-6, first in SE, third in EC)
Nashville Predators (33-29-4, fourth in CEN, eighth in WC)

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. The only problem is, where the Capitals are going hasn't been a fruitful place to pick up points.

The Western Conference has been a troublesome place for the Caps, but fortunately in the playoffs there's only one way to play a Western Conference team. Also on the Caps' side: their road record is steadily improving; in their last 15 road games, the Caps are 10-3-2.

While the road record is improving, the Capitals once-sparkling home record is now tainted after a streak of four losses on home ice. It's been nearly 16 months since the Capitals last had a four-game losing streak and, after Sunday's heartbreaking shootout loss, the Caps will hit the road for what we hope is a little soul searching.

No longer able to blame injuries or tough scheduling, the Capitals have only themselves to blame at this point in the season for lost games. The once-mighty double digit lead in the Southeast Division is dwindling as Florida and Carolina make their playoff runs. Consider the Southeast crown under heavy assault.

Like Carolina and Florida, Nashville is in a tight playoff race in the West. With the Stars, Wild and Ducks nipping at the Predators' heels, Nashville can and will play desperate hockey to keep its postseason hopes alive.

The Capitals penalty killers will be facing the third worst power play in the league (14.1%), but the Caps power play will need to find a way through Nashville's fourth-ranked penalty kill (84.3%).

In Nashville, the Capitals will be facing a defensive team that is a rarity among teams contending for the playoffs. The Predators are one of six teams that have given up more goals than they have scored and still have playoff hopes.

The Caps are seemingly coming off their slump, but one game is not a trend and the coming games in Philly and at home against Carolina could very well put the Southeast Division crown at risk.


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