Tonight as the Panthers host the Washington Captials they also start another grueling stretch of seven games in nine days. A true test of their physical ability and mental toughness. These games are not going to be easy, and there isn’t one game this month that’s a sure thing. Every game is important as the Panthers need as many points as possible.
The Capitals are coming in to town tonight on their Florida swing after losing to the Lightning 7-4 last night in a game that obviously didn’t feature much defence. If there is one thing that will keep the Capitals from a long and deep playoff run it’s their defensive play. We all know that they can score with anyone as they lead the lead in goals with 166. But it’s because of the chances that they take offensviely, and the odd man rushes that they give up, and a goaltending tandem that’s slightly above average at best, that would keep them from advancing.
Still, despite all their shortcomings, I’d gladly trade their roster for ours, any day. Led by “Alex The Great“, who has 27 seven goals this year to lead the team to go along with 56 points, he is nothing short of amazing. But always the center of attention, he almost got himself into some trouble last night when Tampa’s Steve Downie ( a player not known for gentlemanly behavior) took exception to a hit from Ovechkin and was challenging him to a fight. While Alex took the gloves off, Capitals forward Matt Bradley quickly intervened and handled the fight instead. (I.E. Protecting the teams franchise)
As I mentioned Washington leads the NHL in scoring with 166 goals and has nine players with at least ten goals, so balanced scoring is certainly not a problem. Washington is 3-0 this year against Florida as all previous games have been played without Ovechklin in the lineup. Oh, that’s a great sign for Florida eh!
While it’s obviously not all about Alex, Washington has a bunch of other players to keep under wraps like Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, the gritty Mike Knuble, and of course defenceman Mike Green.
Florida meanwhile will have to make sure that they don’t play run and gun with this team as it’s a game that won’t be won that way. They actually will have to slow things down a bit and jam the middle of the ice and apply pressure in Washington’s end. If the Panthers can figure out a way to play some puck possession offence and limit Washington’s scoring chances, they might have a chance. Staying out of the penalty box is another issue and it would be a good idea if they can, as Washington has the league’s second best power play.
Missing in action for Florida (on the scoresheet) has been Stephen Weiss who has been held scoreless for seven games. He’s looked frustrated lately and out of sorts. Or maybe just coming back to reality. The top line which includes Nathan Horton and Michael Frolik has hit a dry spell of late and that just puts more pressure on the other three lines. While Horton has 18 points in his last 14 games it’s the other two that have slumped. Rusty Olesz had two goals in Saturday’s victory over Ottawa and could be on an hot streak. Or not. Who knows with him as he has been the definition of inconsistency, with the occassional exception of when he’s consistently not scoring! Make sense?
The Panthers have had three days of rest minus practice time, and hopefully have worked on a few things such as the power play and the ability to get the puck out of their zone without chipping it off the glass. The first seven to ten minutes of this one could determine alot. I would hope, but can’t expect, that they won’t take forty minutes to find their game as it might be over by then.
Which Panther team shows up? Don’t know, guess you’ll have to watch (with one eye closed) and find out. All I know is these are two points that we have to have!
Thanks for reading
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