Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mr. Hyde & Dr. Jekyll Go To Florida for Spring Break

It's been four days since my last blog entry and other more focused bloggers and the "real media" have chronicled the past two Washington Capitals games quite well. However the real question in most Caps fans' minds this morning is which team will show up tonight at Saint Pete Times Forum to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning? Will it be the really ugly, bad Mr. Hyde Capitals how lost in Atlanta 5-1 on Monday evening or will it be the wonderful, handsome and smooth playing Dr. Jekyll Capitals who not only shut out the Florida Panthers 3-0 in Sunrise, Florida on Tuesday night but also didn't even allow the Panthers a single shot on goal?

Perhaps, just as as we wonder which Caps Team will show up, on the other side of the boards/glass the Capitals are wondering which fan base will show up tomorrow morning. Will it be the rationale, educated fan base they have had for those long, often "dry" rebuilding years who understand "you can't win them all" and "even very good hockey teams have bad games"? Or will it be the more recent, much more demanding, much faster to react, and much larger fan base that has grown as the Capitals fortunes, play and results have improved since Thanksgiving 2008? The fan base who after a "stinker" starts wondering aloud and agreeing with TV commentators that perhaps their "Golden Boy" is over enthusiastic in his celebratory efforts after a goal, or who indicate they agree their team's #2 defenseman and a key "minute muncher" and special teams player is overpaid and under performing even though comparatively looking around the league and at his statistical performance thus far this season doesn't support whether conclusion.

At this point, a more succinct and bigger hack of a blogger might say something "hokey" like "Only the shadow knows, but to find out tune in tonight at 7:30PM EDT, same bat station ...."

Instead since that blogger is not me, I'll offer a couple of points that I think are relevant to support my feeling and opinion when I say I think it'll be Dr. Jekyll.

First as J.P. of Japer's Rink points out: "In each of the first three games between the Caps and Bolts this season, Washington has out-scored Tampa three-nothing in the first period, and each time it has come against a different goaltender." Tonight's the trend of the Caps outplaying the 'Bolts in the first period will likely to continue and the victim will likely be Karri Ramo in net for Tampa Bay. The Caps might not score 3 and the 'Bolts might not be held scoreless but it would seem surprising considering the makeup of each team and their histories if the Caps don't outscore and generally outplay Tampa in the first period given how well each team knows the other and the Capitals have a chance tonight to overtake the New Jersey Devils in the Conference standings even if it is only for as few as 24 hours and Tampa Bay is basically only playing these remaining 12 games of this season for what amounts to pride.

Second as has been the case all season long Tampa's roster is in flux once again after Defenseman Corey Murphey's foot was broken by a Vincent Lecavalier slapshot. As such, Tampa Bay will have Matt Lashoff as the 20th different defenseman on their roster this season. That flux along with all the shuffling created by Tampa Bay's trade deadline deals means that much of the 'Bolts roster is just sorting out roles and style of play let alone fine tuning timing.

Third or perhaps 2 1/2, as Peerless points out at 3-2-3 so far, the month of March represents the best monthly performance thus far for the Lighting in 2008-2009 and the only month they are over 0.500 this year. In fact in statistical categories like 5-5 results, goals for per game, goals against per game or whatever, so far this season the Lightning's results are in the bottom 10 teams of the league. As for overall record, with 61 points thus far the Lighting are 29th out of the NHL's 30 teams. So while they have been playing relatively well of late with a 2-0-2 record in their last four outings and both Lecavalier, Rammo and Martin St. Louis are playing well; the Capitals should still win this one.

Final score forecast: Capitals 5 - Lightning 3.


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