Game Day Preview: Capitals vs. Panthers



Big matchup tonight as the Washington Capitals come to visit the streaking Florida Panthers for the first of two home and home games on consecutive nights.  The Capitals come to town with a 8-3-4 record as they sit at the top of the Southeast Division with 20 points, and are second in the Eastern Conference trailing the Penshits.  The Caps are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games after losing to New Jersey 3-2 Wednesday night.

The Panthers have improved to 5-7-1 and have won 3 in a row after another terrible slow start.  The victories however should not be license to indicate that they have turned the corner however.  The first win was over Dallas 6-5 in a shoutout in a game that the Panthers jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first.  They then beat the St. Louis Blues 4-0 behind a solid performance by Tomas Vokoun, against however a struggling Blues team.  Wednesday night the Panthers handed the Carolina Hurricanes their 10th consecutive defeat with another shutout by Vokoun, winning 3-0.  So while the 3 in a row is nothing to sneeze at, it’s also important to remember that the wins were not against elite teams.  Tonight though will be a true test to see just how far the Panthers have come.  I originally said that of their 3 games this week, the Panthers needed to grab 4 out of 6.  I still stand behind that and if they accomplish that, we may be able to feel they ahve turned the corner.

About tonight.

The Good:  No Alexander Ovechkin as he is out with an upper body injury.  Ovechkin has 14 goals in 14 games and it’s a blessing for the Panthers anytime they don’t have to face him.  The Caps are on a three game slide, something the Panthers should hope continues.  Jose Theodore most likely gets the start tonight, and while I’ve always liked Jose, you just never know what you’ll get with him.  The last time he faced the Panthers he gave up 6 goals.  Tomas Vokoun will get the start tonight as he expects to continue his solid play between the pipes, and has pitched 2 consecutive shutouts.  Steven Reinprecht remains hot and has scored 9 goals already putting him on pace for 56.  Don’t worry, not happening, but it’s a nice number to look at isn’t it?  Lazy Ass and Cory Stillman have been playing much better since they both have been aligned with Rhino.  I’m trying to come up with a name for their line, but am stuck with CSN (Crosby, Stills, Nash), but the use of Crosby bother’s me.

The Bad: No Ovechkin.  I love watching this guy play, and love him even more when I see him in person.  The Caps are looking to end a losing streak.  The Panthers are a team that normally accomodates that.  Bruce Boudreau wasn’t pleased with the effort against New Jersey the other night and reminded them that they are not a one man team, and needs them to play at their best, even without Ovechkin.  The Panthers are on a 3 game win streak, with 2 consecutive shutouts, but against lesser opponents then they will face tonight.  Streaks like this are common for a middle of the road team and this setup is a perfect recipe for both streaks to end.

Wouldn’t be surprised if:  Washington takes a commanding lead right away and gets Florida off its game.  Florida takes a bunch of stupid penalties and never gets a flow going.  Their winning streak ends.  Theodore can’t stop a beachball and the Cats light him up for 5 in the first 2 periods with Rhino getting 2. 

Would like to see:  An exciting game by both clubs with a ton of scoring chances and good goaltending. Some physical play as each team finishes their checks and a few scrums develop through the night.  These are division rivals right?

I’ll be there, and am looking forward to it.  Hopefully neither team dissappoints.

Oh, yea, one more thing:

Thanks for reading.