Sunday, December 28, 2008

Looking Ahead to Tonight's Caps - Maple Leafs Game & A Review of the Southeast Division Action Since The Christmas Break

Around The Southeast Division Since Christmas: Tampa Bay 2-0-0.....

- Tampa Bay beat the Florida Panthers twice in their home & home series on Friday at Sunrise (4-3 in OT) and last night at Saint Pete Times Forum (6-3 in regulation). For Caps fans who follow former Caps play it was a very good weekend for Steve Eminger. Eminger had a goal and two assists and was +1 in 24:48 TOI during Friday Night's OT win for the Bolts. Last night he was held off the score sheet but finished the night +4 in 22:30 of Time On Ice. Last night's game was also the 700th NHL game of Richard Zednick's career. While neither Zednick or Tampa Bay's Jeff Halpren had great games in either of the contests they both turned in solid efforts on the back to back nights.

- The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Friday evening 5-4 in regulation and then dropped their game against the Boston Bruins tonight at RBC Center in Raleigh. Canes' star center Eric Staal had a hat trick in their win over Atlanta but was held off the score sheet and finished the game against Boston at -1.

- Like the Capitals, Atlanta was idle last night. Tonight, they host the red hot Boston Bruins for the fourth and last game of their regular season series against the Bruins this regular season. The Bruins have beaten the Thrashers all three prior meetings this season and are currently on a seven game winning streak. In fact, the last team to beat Boston was the Capitals on December 10th at Verizon Center.

Through the completion of last night's games the Southeast Division standings are as follows:

Team Games Played Points Last 10 Games
1) Washington Capitals 36 47 8-2-0
2) Carolina Hurricanes 37 39 5-3-2
3) Florida Panthers 35 37 5-3-2
4) Tampa Bay Lightning 35 29 4-5-1
5) Atlanta Thrashers 35 28 4-5-1.

A Look Ahead To Tonight's Caps - Maple Leafs Game

While when you look from the top level at the tonight's match-up between the Capitals and the Maple Leafs the likely outcome looks to be obvious, don't be fooled. The numbers comparison between the two look like this:
1) Standings: Capitals - 2nd in the Eastern Conference with 47 Points in 36 games played (0.653 hockey); Maple Leafs - 11th in the Eastern Conference with 34 points in 35 games played (0.486 hockey).
2) Goals Scored vs. Goals Allowed: Capitals - 116/108 (1.07); Maple Leafs - 110/126 (0.873). Avg Goals/Game & Avg Goals Allowed/Game: Capitals - (3.22 & 3.oo); Maple Leafs (3.14 & 3.60).
While the list of top level comparisons could go on like this for several more categories of statistics, their are two other items which could level the playing field. A) The Maple Leafs have on several occasions shown themselves to be able "Giant Killers." B) The Capitals have on more than one occasion this season shown themselves to be supremely capable of playing up to OR DOWN TO the skill levels of their opponents and allowing lesser teams to stay in games they should not have been in.

A)With a win at home tonight against Toronto, the Caps would enjoy a real double-digit separation from the rest of the Southeast; as they have a game in hand over Carolina who is idle tonight and currently 8 points back. With a win tonight the Caps home record would go to 15-1-1 but still remain second to San Jose's home record of 18-0-2 in the league.
B) So far it appears that it's possible that both Mike Green and Jeff Schultz could be returning to the line-up tonight on the Capitals blueline. Assuming both are healthy and that Green doesn't try and play outside his abilities while he plays himself back to full season strength, and somehow doesn't go more than 20-21 minutes TOI; the Maple Leafs should be in some trouble. How this makes the possibility of seeing a direct comparison of Luke Schenn vs. Karl Alzner look is for the "capologists" to figure out. Bottom line is assuming one or both return to the lineup the Maple leafs will be facing a much stronger blueline corps than the Caps beat the Sabres with on Friday evening.
C) Jose Theodore will get his third consecutive start tonight and will likely face Vesla Toskla at the other end of the ice. Assuming Jose continues the trend he's had over the past five periods of hockey this will be a decided advantage for the Capitals.
D) The Caps will have a large, likely sellout crowd behind them tonight and be wearing their white (normally road) jerseys as they retire Mike Gartner's number before the game. Maybe the Leafs should start 41 year old veteran backup Curtis Joseph as Cujo played against Gartner in his heyday.

It should be a good night to "Rock the Red" as long as the Capitals play their game and don't play the Leafs game.

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

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