This will be the second time this season that the Washington Capitals play a game without Alex Ovechkin due to a suspension. In five games this year against Florida, Ovechkin has only played two, and missing tonights game will disappoint alot of people. That’s unfortunate, and here’s why.
In brief, Ovechkin has been suspended two games for his late hit/shove on Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brian Campbell who ended up going into the boards and suffered a broken collarbone. Campbell will miss the rest of the regular season and may not return for the playoffs at all depending on how far the Hawks advance. Is the suspension warranted? Yes. Late hit. Campbell did not have the puck, was in a vulnerable position, and Ovechkin did not have to shove him and could have let up. He knows better and this was a senseless play. Don’t get me wrong, I like Alex and think he’s a great player, but he knows better and at the same time has done this before. Therefore, he got what he deserved.
Ok, enough of that and on to the game. The Capitals come into town on the heels of a huge overtime win in Chicago with four unanswered goals against a Hawks team that took the game for granted after building up a three goal lead. Never should have happened and credit Washington for coming back as they did. Keeps your eyes on Brooks Laich who has 11 points in his last ten games, Nicklas Backstrom who has six points in his last four, and the always dangerous Mike Green who has five points over his last three games.
Also playing extremely well is goaltender Jose Theodore who has a 24-7-6 record this season. Washington who is expected to go deep in the playoffs, and is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender will need Theodore to continue this type of play in order to meet those expectations. Can he do it, and will their defence, which is pouros at times be able to keep up?
Florida on the other hand, is still or only six points out of the 8th and final spot in the Eastern Conference. There are some who still think that the Panthers have a shot at making it and won’t stop believing until they are mathematically eliminated. If you’re looking for me to be one of the believers, think again. Too little and too late. We have seen this story many, many times over the last three to four seasons. My expectations have been managed very well all season. I originally picked them to finish in the 12th spot, and that’s exactly where they are, so if they make it the playoffs, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. When they don’t, I won’t be disappointed!
Still riding the hot hand of goalie Tomas Vokoun and coming off a stunnig overtime victory of their own against San Jose Saturday afternoon, Florida expects to continue to fight for a playoff spot. While Washington is no pushover without Ovechkin, the Panthers are going to have to continue to get balanced scoring and top notch defence. Speaking of defence, guys like Bryan McCabe, Keith Ballard and Bryan Allen (who had the overtime winner Saturday) are playing a ton of extra minutes since the deaprture of Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg.
Jason Garrison has played nicely since he was brought up, but rookie Keaton Ellerby is not getting much ice time at all. This could affect the entire unit as fatigue is going to play a role here. One thing though that coach Peter DeBoer seems to be doing is giving his fourth line some extra minutes, which certainly helps the forwards. In the past, DeBoer has been extremely reluctant to utilize his fourth line especially in close games. Shawn Matthias who has been on the third unit lately is looking a bit more comfortable and has points in his last two games.
Rusty Olesz however is scoreless in his last 17!
Little Stevie is scoreless in his last four as he has been bothered by another nagging injury.
A win by the Panthers puts them four points behind the Bruins if Boston loses to Carolina, which is a possibility the way Carolina is playing lately. Every game is important and their can be no let up.
I don’t care what anyone says, the pressure is on Florida.
Thanks for reading.