Monday, October 13, 2008

Looking Ahead - Vancouver @ Washington 7PM Faceoff

Well tonight the Caps face off against the Vancouver Canucks at the Verizon Center. Vancouver comes into the game at 2-0-0 having bested their rival, the Calgary Flames on both sides of a Home and Home series. First the Canucks shutout the Flames 6-0 in their home opener on Thursday Night in Vancouver. Then they travelled to Calgary and dealt the Flames a 5-4 overtime loss to the Flames in their home opener at Pengrowth Saddledome to start the season a perfect 2-0-0. The Canucks have started the season with a more potent offense then they displayed much of least season. With 11 goals in two games, the Canucks forwards have been led by Left Wing Daniel Sedin and his twin brother Center Henrik Sedin. Daniel has a league leading 5 points (2 goals and 3 assists), while Henrik is right behind him with 4 points (1 goal and 3 assists). In net, the Canucks are "led" by Roberto Luongo. Luongo finished last season with a GAA of 2.38 and a save percentage of 0.917 in 73 games played. Through the first two games of this season he has a GAA of 1.94 and a save percentage of 0.926. The Canucks come into the "Phone Booth" as a hot team. Caps fans hoping to see former Cap fan favorite Matt Pettinger will, sadly, be disappointed. Pettinger, who was traded late last season for Matt Cooke (now with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the Caps did not seek to resign him in free agency) didn't make the big club and has been assigned to their AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose.

Looking ahead to tonight's game, its difficult to predict any aspect of how things will play out.

The Caps certainly ought to be able to match offense with the Canucks. based on last seasons statistics, in fact, the Caps should be able to overmatch the boys from Vancouver. However, so far this season, offensively the Canucks have been a different team then last season. Last night the Caps looked like the team they were at the end of last season and should either match or exceed the play of the Canucks, but if the team that played Atlanta is the one at the Verizon Center tonight and the Canucks continue their offensive transformation all bets could be off.

On the defensive side of the net both teams have fairly even blue line corps so that shouldn't be a major factor in the outcome on the defensive side of the puck; on the offensive side of the puck, the Canucks while not having any single match for Mike Green do have a trio of offensively capable Scandinavians: Sami Salo, Mattias Ohland, and Alexander Edler, whose total goal production last year of 25 goals eclipsed Game Over's 18 goals by seven (7). So far in the first two games the only scoring from the Canucks trio has been from Ohland who has one of the Canucks 11 regular season tallies to date. Ohland als has 3 assists, while Salo and Edler both have one assist each. Mike Green has 2 power play goals and 1 assist in 2 games. No one on the Canucks Blue Line brings the magnitude of game changing dynamic to the game that Green does. If Green has a banner night, it could tip the scales as regards the defensive match-up. However, against the gritty hard forechecking and backchecking of Vancouver, he'll also have to be wary of being caught up ice and burned by the Canucks.

In net Roberto Luongo has been a paragon of consistancy over his eight seasons as an NHL goaltender. Luongo has played an average of 74 regular season games each of the past four seasons. During that time his best year long save percentage was and his worst was 0.931 in 2003-2004 and his worst was 0.914 in 2005-2006 with Florida. While Luongo has been consistent and Caps number one goaltender Jose Theodore's career has been peppered with inconstancy, Theodore's best year, 2001-2002 in Montreal, when he won the Hart and Veznia Trophies matches Luongo's best year with a save percentage of 0.931. Theodore's last season results a save percentage of 0.910 over 58 games followed by a stellar first round 4 games - 2 playoff series victory was pretty much the equal of Luongo's 73 game 0.917 save percentage performance. The reality is while you have to give the Canucks an edge here due to Luongo's consistency; both these net-minders have the talent required to steal a game on a good night.

In the intangibles area, the edge goes slightly to the Capitals as they are at home and should be in front of another good crowd who will be Rockin' The Red. Also for Vancouver, this game will be the second of a six game road trip and it'll be following a late finish in their overtime victory on Saturday night in Calgary. However, yesterday was likely a leisurely travel day so they should be rested and their next game isn't until Thursday night in Detroit.

For all these reasons in reality, tonight's game should be an excellent one and for either of these two good teams to win, they'll need to "leave it all out there on the ice." So regarding to tonight's outcome prediction, once again owing to blatant "homerism" call it - CAPS 3, Vancouver 2 in regulation.

LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!

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