Well last night wasn't a fun game to watch. It was a "no point" night for the Caps at Verizon Center - of late an infrequent occurrence. However give the Canadeans their due, they played well and they played hard. The Caps really didn't seem to get going until well ... until it was too late and then with too little. Say what you want and everyone will to me the difference maker in last night's game was Carey Price and his 32 saves. In the end the Habs bested the Caps 3-2, no joy in "Muddville" last night.
Last night's loss was followed by a quick flight to Toronto and tonight on Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC) the Caps will face off at Air Canada Center against the Maple Leafs, a storied NHL franchise that is struggling. Now that could be a recipe for joy ... or more heartache. The Caps will again be fielding an injury depleted roster, all be it a talented group it won't be their usual group, or perhaps more accurately the group that was the Caps roster when the season opened. Missing from tonight's lineup for the Caps will be: Alexander Semin, Boyd Gordon, Shoane Morrisonn, Tom Poti, Milan Jurcina, and Quintin Laing. Michael Neuvirth was sent back down to Hershey to make room for the call-up of Andrew Gordon. It appears the starting goaltender will be Semyon Varlamov and Jose Theodore will be on the bench if necessary. There are some interesting gaps in the lineup. On defense, despite starting the season with 8 defensemen on the roster it appears the Caps defensive pairings will consist of a mix of: Mike Green, Brian Pothier, John Erskine, Jeff Schultz, Tyler Sloan and John Carlson. The Caps roster page now shows nine defensemen, and for some reason it appears the gene pools of Calgary and Massachusetts are the overwhelming sources of Capitals blueline talent. On the front lines tonight we'll have: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble, Brendan Morrison, Brooks Laich, Thomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, Chris Clark, David Steckel, Matt Bradley, Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon, and Jay Beagle. Missing from tonight's lineup will be over $17M of salary cap - Semin: $4.6M, Nylander: $4.875, Poti: $3.5, Sha-Mo:$1.975, Jurcina:$1.375, Boyd Gordon: $761K, and Laing: $500K - those 7 players are the equivalent of about a third of an NHL team at this season's Salary Cap $56.8M. Perhaps given the injuries, etc. it's time to start thinking about giving Michael Nylander a sweater and getting something for his salary hit? I really don't understand how the cap works to that degree but doesn't his salary cap hit start counting again soon?
In any case tonight's game will give the Caps a chance to begin anew following the loss to Montreal, they should be able to win, even with the injuries and juggled line-up. They'll need to raise their game across the board, actually they'll need to raise the energy level from what they had last night. As this game is on HNIC, the Leafs will be up for it however, I like others, think they'll have a harder time bottling up the Caps then the Canadeans did last night.
Prediction: Caps 5 - Leafs 3 - I expect solid, excellent games from Backstrom, Ovechkin, Green and Laich on the Caps side of the Red Line - big games elicit big efforts from big players. For Toronto I also expect the usual suspects to have solid nights Kessel, Kabrele and the "Monster" will have good nights but I expect the Caps to have 40+ SOG.
Oh and I'm counting on Don Cherry to look and act like the unmitigated a$$ he is at the intermission, what kind of asinine comment will you make about Ovechkin tonight, Don? Please enlighten us all with your open minded, forward thinking, knowledge, please, please, please...
LETS GO CAPS!!!