Thursday, October 9, 2008

Looking Ahead - Season Opener Caps vs. Thrashers, Friday Night in Atlanta

The Capitals open the 2008-2009 NHL regular season, on the road, in Atlanta on Friday night. The Atlanta Thrashers are somewhat a work in process particularly their blue line corps. The "bluebirds" just picked up two time All-Star 39 year old defenseman Mathieu Schneider from the Anaheim Ducks a little over a week ago who will be in their opening night lineup. At the other end of the spectrum, the Thrashers first round draft pick (3rd overall), 18 year old American, Zach Bogosian, will also start on the Thrasher's blue line in his first NHL regular season game on Friday evening. The Capitals opening night line-up card in Atlanta will be as follows:

Forward lines:

The defense should be as follwos::


The heralded "match up" of the night will be between each team's Russian sharpshooters - Alex Ovechkin for the Capitals and Ilya Kovalchuck for the Thrashers. Looking at the match ups between the two teams, Sharpshooter/Power Forward: Alexander Ovechkin vs. Ilya Kovalchuck. Ovechkin is well, Ovechkin but he may be slightly slowed by a sore groin/upper leg muscle. Kovalchuck is almost Ovechkin, having scored 52 goals last season; 42 goals in 2006-2007 and 52 goals in 2005-2206. If Ovie is slightly slowed call this battle a tie. Once you go beyond that match up, while the Thrashers do have talent up front, in the post- Marian Hossa era it doesn't match-up with Washington. On Defense, the Thrashers made some late moves in the preseason and may well have the third best defense in the Southeast conference, the top two being Florida and the Caps. In goal the match up is: Jose Theodore vs. Kari Lehtonen, you have to give this duel to Theodore and the Capitals.

The banter and divisional rivalries aside, the Caps should be able to handle the Thrashers and come back to DC for their home opener the following night 1-0. The Caps overmatch the Thrashers in all key areas, and even with a slowed Ovechkin, the Caps have the edge in 3 of 4 categories. So the Caps have the edge in 3 of 4 comparative catagories. Prediction: Washington 4, Atlanta 2.

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