The reigning back to back Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning come into Washington DC today to take on the Washington Capitals who won their season opener against the New York Rangers on Wednesday evening 5-1 in regulation. Tampa Bay lost their home opener to Tuesday evening 6-2 in regulation then beat the rebuilding Red Wings 7-6 in Overtime in Detroit on Thursday evening.
Those middling results by the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Lightning might make us Capitals fans very optimistic. Unfortunately for us Caps fans, they don't tell the whole story. Yes, Tampa Bays home opener was clearly not a good evening for the Lightning, and Thursday's game seems like it could have gone either way when you look at the bottom line result a 7-6 (OT) win. What those numbers and results don't tell us is that the OT victory in Detroit was a comeback win from a 6-3 deficit at 7:10 in the third period; for the last 12:50 of regulation, and the 2:43 of three on three overtime, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked and played like the team that has won back to back Stanley Cups. Steven Stamkos scored two goals; as did Ondrej Palat (whose second goal was the OT GWG). The Lightning's power play was "ON" throughout the game. The Lightning outshot the Red Wings 48-26 SOG throughout the night, and "won" the face-off battles 30-26. Basically the Bolts are basically almost back playing to form, the only statistical weakness for them is their team SV% 75.38% through their first two games. That seems likely to markedly improve pretty quickly now the front end of the Lightning's game seems to have gotten on track.
The Capitals come into their second game of the season with Nicklas Backstrom still on LTIR, and having played well in most aspects of the game during their home opener, though they started very sluggishly and didn't play well in the first period against the Rangers and the only solid face-off man they can count on to likely win draws being Nic Dowd. Regardless wether Vitek Vanecek or Ilya Samsonov get the start this evening, the Lightning are not the Rangers and the Capitals need to come out ready to play from the opening puck drop, against Detroit the Lightning had 48 shots on goal, 15 in the first period, and 16 in the second period. Odds are they will come out for tonight's game against the Capitals brining on all cylinders. To win, the Capitals need to play all sixty minutes like they played the final 40 of their home opener against the Rangers. Somebody, in addition to Nic Dowd, needs to have a FO% > 50%; and the team defense needs to be relatively stifling of the Tampa Bay star forwards.
Players to watch:
Capitals: Alex Ovechkin; our selected goaltender; our energy line; Anthony Mantha; John Carlson
Lightning: Andrei Vasilevskiy; Victor Hedman; Nikita Kucherov; Corey Perry; Alex Kilorn.
I'm not making a prediction as I'm hoping this is a tossup; tightly played game that results in another two points for my Washington Capitals but I have lots of concerns, too many to quantify about that.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!