Merry Christmas, it's been a wonderful day here at home. I got several great gifts from my wife and son; they went all out and got me some fun gadgets for my bar that I got a real kick out of - a neat wine chiller from Brookstone and a bar caddy that dispenses pre-measured shots from 4 different bottles and looks pretty spiffy. I always get a real kick out of getting folks things they didn't ask for, but really like and wouldn't buy for themselves; this year I was on the receiving end of two of those, one from each of my favorite people in the world. Even better, tomorrow night I'll go to my first Caps Home game of December and my son is coming with me. The main reason I ever got Caps season tickets is/was to spend some time with my son, doing something we enjoy together; so when we can go to the games together it's especially great to me. Now that he is focused on finishing his senior year of high school in style, and busy doing all those things that teenagers do and that take time, it's rare we get to a weeknight game together, so watching the Caps vs. the Lightning this week will be a real treat.
What about this budding match up? Well, with a few puck bounces the Caps way, it's not hard to envision them finishing the night one (1) point behind the Lightning. The real questions leading up to the night center on the defensive pairings, with Brian Pothier still out and the issues with the Schultz/Erskine pairing evidenced last game, don't be surprised to see Steve Eminger on the blue line for the Caps. Eminger's mobility opens up a lot of possibilities for Coach Bruce Boudreau to consider; but, don't expect things to get too fancy until number 44 comes out and proves himself. It appears most fans will be rooting for him to do just that. One of the more enjoyable things for Caps fans to watch this season has been Mike Green's maturation and what looks like it will be a breakout season for the young defenseman. Jeff Schultz has had his ups and downs so far but also looks like he'll be a steady top four defenseman for the Caps, as well. With the continued tough road ahead to any chance of a post season appearance by their team, the Caps faithful are taking solace in the improving performance of these "home grown" young defensemen. A solid performance b y Eminger would give them another reason to celebrate the improving defensive side of the team.
Two of these pleasant "surprises" the last two games, have been Shoanne Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina. Against the Islanders, Jurcina looked like he was going to be caught out of position and burned twice, however on both occasions he got back and broke up the developing plays himself, finishing the game with a +/- rating of +1 after logging a respectable 16:10 of ice time. Morrisonn is clearly maturing into a stalwart, "defensive" D-Man and is being counted on for more ice time and to anchor the Capitals Defense in shorthanded situations. Statistically this handicaps him with regards to +/- ratings, yet Morrisonn has regularly had very good games like he did against the Isles where he logged 23:15 of ice time including 2:21 while the Caps were shorthanded. He ended the Isles game -1, he wasn't on the ice during any of the Caps goals and was out when Bill Guerin scored a relatively soft goal at 17:54 of the third period, while Morrisonn's defensive partner Mike Green was down on the ice after getting a cut to the head that could otherwise have resulted in a play stoppage had the referees seen the injury. Overall, for the year Morrisonn is -3, despite logging considerable ice time and a lot of penalty killing minutes. He has clearly shown he deserved the two year contract extension the Caps gave him this past off season when they re-signed him as a restricted free agent (RFA).
Another positive since the coaching change, has been Tom Poti's blue line play; Washington fans are no longer questioning managements foray into the free agent pool that landed Poti in DC this past off season. Despite the losing effort before the Christmas break, Poti led the team in ice team with 26:10 and had a +/- rating of +2 for the game. He leads the team in ice time and has done so in 24 of 30 outings this season; yet to score a goal this season, Poti is fifth on the team with 11 assists and overall is -3 +/- rating.
All in all tomorrow's contest should be a great home game for the Caps. The Lightning have the worst road record in the league this season and both teams come in to the game off losses. Everyone will be rested and the game should draw a fair sized crowd, given the holiday timing. If the Caps blank Lecavalier and St. Louis; AO gets a hat trick +1 and the Blue Jackets blank Kovalchuk, Caps fans might be on the road to getting what they want for Christmas. The team's star will be tied for the goal scoring lead, the team will be two points closer to pulling out of the cellar of the Southeast division, and the Caps will have completely dominated their division rival Lightning sending a resounding message to the league they are not the team they were before their coaching change. Merry Christmas & LETS GO CAPS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!