Tonight at Verizon Center the Capitals take on the Dallas Stars at 7:00PM; the game is on National TV - Versus Network and it should be a good one. I know I almost always say that but it's also almost always true, and it's likely to be even more true at this time of the year. The Stars are in 11th place in the Western Conference but they are still in the hunt/fight for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West with a 28-24-12 record and 68 points. The Stars are currently 6 points behind the 8th place Detroit Red Wings. The main issues/challenges for the Stars in their quest for the post-season center around the fact they are only 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and they have lost their last 3 games.
The Capitals come into the game looking for their 14th consecutive win on home ice and their 4th win in a row. The Caps are currently sitting atop the league standings with 96 points and a 44-13-8 record overall. They are 25-3-3 on home ice so far this season. The Caps have amassed a positive goal differential of +75 so far this season and are the highest scoring team in the league by a margin of 40 goals at this point; the Capitals score an average of 3.95 goals per game and have given up and average of only 2.8 goals per game. Additionally the Caps only strengthened their team at the trade deadline.
The Stars and the Caps played once last season in Dallas, the Caps won that game 6-5 in overtime, if both teams play to anywhere near their potential, this game shouldn't be that close. When the headline and opening sentence on the story about your team's trade deadline pickups are: " Segal Adjusting to Life With New Team" and "Dallas' newest forward is a valuable foot soldier who brings a lot of energy to the Stars'lineup." when you are on a three game post break road trip and have lost your last three games, things aren't exactly all roses in cowtown. The Stars are averaging only 2.82 goals per game while averaging 3.12 goals against. They have actually stood pat pretty much all season, except for picking up goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Brandon Segal was claimed off waivers just before the Olympic break, playing with the team they started the season with. Now they are on the bad side of the trend while fighting for the last available playoff spot in their Conference. They still have a fairly solid team but they haven't been clicking all that well all season long. The stars of the Stars among the forwards are Brad Richards, Mike Ribiero and Brendan Morrow. None are having anywhere near career years, though Ribero seems to be on pace to produce his usual numbers. However, one could easily look over Richards' production this season and his career statistics and wonder why anyone ever thought he was worth $5.7M/year - compare his production to say oh I don't know, Alexander Semin, and one might easily understand why Semin's agent talks about "not taking any hometown discounts.". On the blueline the top three defensemen are: Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, and Karlis Skrastins. In net the Stars have two accomplished veterans: Marty Turco and Kari Lehtonen. In team defense based on GA/G the Stars rank 25th so the collective efforts of the five defensemen and goaltenders mentioned here has been underwhelming to date. Against the leagues leading offensive team, that should mean the Caps ought to be able to put the puck into the net, unless the Dallas netminders have an anomalous game of the spectacular variety tonight.
Prediction: Caps 6 - Stars 3.
To get an idea just how far the Capitals have come in the past 3 or so years take a look over at the WaPo site and read today's article by Caps Beat Writer Tarik El-Bashir. The quotes by Joe Corvo about being dealt to the Capitals echo the good feelings the other trade deadline pick-ups also said about being dealt to the Caps. However, those of us who've followed the team for "a while" can readily remember the rebuild and times when the Caps used to have to really scrape and claw to get the attention and consideration of the better players in the NHL as they approached free-agency, I won't mention any names or specifics but consider what sort of things they had to include in say a guy with the initials MN in his contract a couple of years ago. In any case, it's a lot more fun to be where we are now as a team for everybody: Ownership, Management, Players, and Fans....
Speaking of fun, if your in the Security business and going to be out in Las Vegas for ISC West make sure you come see the unveiling of ICx Technologies' CommandSpace Argus, March 24 - 26 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.
In the meantime, let's all get ready and go Rock The Red at Verizon Center tonight as the Caps go after their 14th consecutive win on home ice.
LETS GO CAPS!!!